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L I B R.A RY 

OF THE 
UN IVLRSITY 
or ILLl NOIS 

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A CRACK COUNTY, 



A CRACK COUNTY. 



H novel 



BV 



MES. EDWAED KENNAED, 



Author of 

"Killed in the Open," "The Girl in the Brown Habit/' 
"A Real Good Thing," etc., etc. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



YOL. II. 



LONDON: 

F. V. WHITE & CO., 
31, SOUTHAMPTON STEEET, STKAND, W.C. 

1888. 



PRmXED BY 
KELLY AND CO., GAT£ STREET, LIKCOLN'S INN FIELDS, 
AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES. 






CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. — A Friend in IS'efd ..... 1 
II. — EiRST Impressions .... 25 
III. — Getting up a Flirtation ... 45 
lY. — Left in the Lurch .... 70 
V. — An Offer of a " Mount " . . .96 
VI. — Bob Makes a Bad Use of His Opportu- 
nity 114 

YII. — A Sunday Call 135 

VIII. — Developing Psichic Forge . . . 149 

IX. — An Untimely Interruption . . 170 
X. — Lady de Fochsey Chooses between Her 

Worldly and Spiritual Lovers . .188 

XI. — The Divinity's Mother . . . 206 

XII. — Maternal Troubles .... 223 
XIII. — The Morbey Anstead Meet in their 

Crack County ..... 242 



pOfUb/cF^ JSIEW J^OVEbS. 

Now ready, the Seventh Edition of 

" ARirY SOCIETY." By John Strange Winter, Author of 
" Booties' Baby." Cloth gilt, &s. ; also, picture boards, 2i. 



Also, Now Ready, in Cloth Gilt, 3*. M. each. 

"GARRISON GOSSIP," Gathered in Blankhampton. By John 
Strange Winter. Also, picture boards, 2s. 

"A SIEGE BABY." By the same AUTHOR. 

" IN THE SHIRES." By SIR RANDAL H. ROBERTS, Bart. Also, 
picture boards, 2*. 

"THE GIRL IN THE BROWN HABIT." A Sporting Novel. By 
Mrs. Edward Kennard. Also, picture boards, 2s. 

« BY WOMAN'S WIT." By Mrs. ALEXANDER, Author of " The 
Wooing O't." Also, picture boards, 2s. 

« MONADS CHOICE." By the same AUTHOR. 

"KILLED IN THE OPEN." By Mrs. EDWARD KENNARD. Also, 
picture boards, 2s. 

"IN A GRASS COUNTRY." By Mrs. H. LOVBTT-CAMERON. 
Also, picture boards, 2 s. 

"A DEVOUT LOVER. By the same AUTHOR. 

"THE OUTSIDER." By Hawley SMART. Also, picture boards, 25. 

"STRAIGHT AS A DIB." By Mrs. Edward Kbnnard. Also, 
picture boards, 2s. 

"TWILIGHT TALES." By Mrs. EDWARD Kennard. (Illustrated.) 

" SHE CAME BETWEEN." By Mrs. ALEXANDER ERASER, 

" THE CRUSADE OF THE ' EXCELSIOR.' " By BRET Harte. 

"CURB AND SNAFFLE." By SIR RANDAL H. ROBERTS, Bart. 

« A REAL GOOD THING." By Mrs. EDWARD KENNARD. 

" DREAM FACES." By THE HONBLE. MRS. FETHERSTONHAUOH. 



F. V. WHITE & Co., 
81, Southampton Street, Strand, liondon, W.O. 



A CRACK COUNTY. 



CHAPTER I. 

A FRIEND IN NEED. 

And as Mr. Eobert Jarrett continued to 
stare, lie suddenly woke to the conscious- 
ness that the young lady, whoever she 
might be, possessed a very charming face. 
A face soft, and fresh, and fair ; round in 
form, delicate in colouring, and beautified 
by a pair of clear gray eyes, fringed with 
long dark eye-lashes, whose straightforward 
and honest expression was attractive in the 
extreme. 

She reddened imperceptibly at his some- 
what prolonged scrutiny. Then finding 
he did not reply to her offer of assistance, 

VOL. II. 17 



2 A CRACK COUNTY. 

she broke into a little laujzh, and said 

li^flitlv : 

" Ah ! I see vou think I am makini]^ a 
vain boast, in offering to help you out of 
your present dilemma, but the difficulty is 
by no means as great as it seems." 

" It has puzzled me for some time," said 
Bob, wiping his damp brow with a silk 
pocket-handkerchief. " I never saw such 
a o^ate in my life." 

She laughed again, merrily like a little 
child, and clapped her hands together. 

" Ah ! YOU are not the first <?entleman 
who has been similarly baffled. Indeed, 
I often tell Farmer Budge quite seriously 
that he ought to put up a notice, giving 
full directions as to how his gates open, 
but he declares this is precisely what he 
does not want. Xow, look here and I will 
show you the secret. There ! do you see ? " 
and stooping' down from the saddle, she 
pressed a small iron knob, imbedded in the 



A FRIEND IN" NEED. 3 

wood at the very end of the latch, and 
which Bob in his impatience had entirely 
overlooked. 

The gate immediately Hew open. 

" It is quite simple once you know 
the way," she said with a smile of amuse- 
ment. 

'• Like a f]food manv other thinf][s," he 
remarked, as he led The Swell on to the 
road. 

"These latches were exhibited at the 
last Agricultural Show, I believe," she 
went on, talking naturally and easily. 
"Farmer Budge has taken out a patent 
and claims to be the inventor. He is very 
proud of them, but all the hunting gentle- 
men are loud in their condemnation." 

'• I don't wonder. They are diabolical 

things, and I really can't think what would 

have become of me if you had not just 

happened to appear when you did." 

" And yet you looked a little dis- 

17* 



4 A CKACK COUNTY 

appointed, at least judging from tlie ex- 
pression of your face," she said archly. 

Bob blushed. He had no idea that his 
countenance had betrayed him, or that she 
would prove so discerning. 

" IIow sharp you are. Well, I will not 
deny the truth. I was a little disappointed, 
because I thought it had come to be a 
regular case of brute force, which would 
require a couple of men's strength." 

" Whereas female cunning has answered 
the purpose as well," she retorted gaily. 

" It has answered the purpose so far, 
that I cannot help feeling I owe you an 
immense debt of gratitude." 

And as he spoke, he caught hold of The 
Swell's mane, hoisted himself into the 
saddle, and moved on a pace or two. 

His companion, whose way was ap- 
parently identical, instead of wishing him 
good-bye, continued to ride by his side. 
She was not very smartly dressed, not 



A FEIEND IN NEED. 5 

nearly as smartly as Lady De Eoclisey. 
Her plain black habit showed symptoms of 
wear. It had a large leather patch over 
the knee, and the seams were decidedly 
threadbare ; but for all that, Bob thought 
there was no comparison between the two 
women. With the one, every tone, every 
action, was evidently studied ; with the 
other, a freedom from all self-consciousness 
gave her an undefinable charm, which he 
felt before he had been two minutes in her 
presence. 

" Oh ! " she exclaimed ; " how dreadfully 
lame your poor horse is. What is the 
matter with him ? " 

" I don't know," answered Bob. "But 
I can't get him along at all." 

" You shouldn't try to," she said re- 
proachfully, as he endeavoured to increase 
the speed. " If you do, you deserve to be 
taken up for cruelty to animals." 

" It would not matter if it were not 



6 A CKACK COUNTY. 

SO infernally cold," he rejoined w'itli a 
shiver. 

She looked up at him with an air of true 
feminine pity, which sank deep into the 
foolish fellow's heart. All through the 
day that particular organ had. been 
hardening and hardening, until at last it 
felt like a stone. One single glance from a 
pretty, fresh-faced, young woman made a 
curious difference in his sensations. It was 
so. sweet to find that somebody sympathised 
in his misfortunes, instead of turning them 
into ridicule. A lump came into his throat, 
as her soft, compassionate eyes rested upon 
him. 

*' Did you meet with an accident ? " she 
asked commiseratingly. 

It was as if he could not tell her an 
untruth, or even conceal his short- 
comings. 

" I tumbled off into a brook. Mv horse 
stopped short, and I Hew over his head. 



A FEIEND IN NEED. 7 

No doubt I ought not to have quitted the 
pigskin, but I did." 

He spoke with a kind of defiant dogged- 
ness, which betrayed a secret fear that she 
might laugh at him. Apparently nothing 
was further from her intentions. She had 
laughed merrily enough a few moments 
ago. He had only thought to himself how 
pure and childlike her mirth sounded. 
But now her little flower-like face, with its 
large eyes and rose-bud mouth, looked very 
grave and sedate. 

"Everybody comes off when they ought 
not to," she said consolingly. " We think 
nothing of such small casualties down 
here. Why ! the ver}^ best rider in all 
the Hunt — a poor man who was killed 
only the other day, Hew off last season 
before the whole field, without any 
apparent reason. But tell me, have you 
far to go ? Because if so, we could change 
saddles, and I might lend you my dear old 



8 A CEACK COUNTY. 

Mouse to ride home upon. You 'v^'ould get 
there sooner." 

Bob was quite affected by the kindness 
of this proposal, coming as it did from a 
complete stranger. 

" And you — what would you do ? " he 
said after a slight pause. 

" I ? Oh ! I should put your horse into 
our stable, and let the poor thing remain 
there till you send for him. How much 
further have you to ao ? " returning to her 
point. 

" I really haven't an idea. I'm a stran- 
ger, and have never hunted here before 
to-day." 

'^ Will you tell me, then, for what place 
you are bound ? I know most of the 
distances pretty accurately, having lived 
in this part of the world nearly all my 
life." 

" I am bound for Straicfhtem Court "said 
Bob in reply. " 



A FRIEND IN NEED. 9 

Slie gave a little start. 

" Then you are Mr. Jarrett ! I thought 
as much." 

" Did you ? How was that ? " he asked 
with awakening curiosity. 

"Because I know the greater number 
of the regular habitues of our hunt, at all 
events by sight." 

"Don't you think," said Bob, "that 
since I have told you my name, you might 
as well tell me yours ; it's always more 
comfortable to know who people are." 

" If it would add to your comfort in any 
way, Mr. Jarrett," she replied jestingly, " I 
have great pleasure in informing you that 
my name is Dot." And two mischievous 
dimples appeared in either cheek. 

" Dot ! " he repeated, lingering un- 
consciously on the word. "What is Dot 
short for ? " 

" Dorothea. Being a rather small person, 
I was presented with a very grand name. 



10 A CEACK COUNTY. 

But as everybody seems to find it rather a 
mouthful, it has been reduced to Dot." 

"Dot what? I rather like Dot," and 
Bob stole a glance at her ; " but I suppose 
you have a surname like all the rest of the 
world." 

" Oh ! yes, Lankester. But let me in- 
troduce myself formally. Miss Dorothea 
Lankester, only daughter of Doctor Hugh 
Lankester, who enjoys the privilege and 
distinction of dispensing nostrums to the 
good people in your village. When you 
require medical aid, Mr. Jarrett, please 
think of us." And she turned a pair of 
langhing gray eyes full upon him." 

" Would you come to nurse me ? " he 
asked, chiming in with her mood. 

"I should have to. Ko choice would be 
given me in the matter. So mind and 
don't fall ill. I always say that I would 
rather attend to a dozen women than one 
man.'' 



A FEIKND IN NEED. A 

" Why ? I sliould have thought it would 
have been the other way about." 

" Because the men have not got a bit of 
pluck, and give in at once. They always 
make up their minds that they are going 
to die, even if they only cut their finger, 
whereas women are so used to discomfort 
and physical pain, that they bear even the 
most dreadful sufierino^s with stoicism." 

'' I shouldn't mind putting up with a 
good deal of discomfort to be nursed by 
you," said Bob, still harping on the same 
idea, and getting bolder as he began to feel 
more at ease. 

" Oh ! no, you wouldn't." And she 
pursed up her little face till it wore a 
comically severe expression. " I'm an 
awfully strict nurse and keep my patients 
in thorough order." 

" I hope we shall see a great deal 
of each other," he said, visions of neigh- 
bourly visits, pleasant dinners, and delight- 



12 A CRACK COUNTY. 

ful country rides with Miss Dot flashing 
across his mind's eye. " It will be so nice 
for us to be good friends.'* 

" Very," she replied with frank uncon- 
sciousness. " The worst of it is, father is 
generally so dreadfully busy, he hardly 
ever has a moment to himself. He was 
only saying to-da}-. that really we ought to 
call upon you." 

" Who are we ? " asked Bob, artfully 
endeavouring to find out of how many 
members the family of Miss Lankester 
consisted. 

" Mother and me. Father verv seldom 
is able to come with us when we leave his 
paste-boards." 

"Don't pay me a formal visit," he 
said eagerly. " I do so hate them. And 
— and — what day may I expect you ?" He 
was making great strides towards intimacy. 
Somehow he felt as if he had known her 
all his life. 



A FRIEND IN NEED. 13 

" I really can't say exactly, Mr. Jarrett." 
slie replied, smiling at his emjyressement. 

" Come any non-hunting day. Tuesday, 
for instance. That's to-morrow, isn't it ? " 

" Very well, I'll ask mother." 

" Wait a bit, though. Why not come to 
dinner ? " urged hospitable Bob. "It 
"would be ever so much jollier." Then, 
with a sudden burst of confidence, inspired 
by Miss Dot's sympathetic manner, he 
added plaintively : " I can't tell you how 
lonely I've been all this time. It will be a 
perfect godsend to me to have somebody 
to talk to." 

" Don't you find everybody remarkably 
talkative out hunting ? " asked Dot, mis- 
chievously. 

" No, very much the reverse. They 
seem a rum lot of fellows, at least according 
to my way of thinking. I never met a 
duller, solemner set in my life." 

Dot's clear lauf^h ram? out. It did him 



14 A CKACK COU^'T^. 

good to hear it. There was something so 
genuine and so hearty about her laughter. 

" Ah ! " she exclaimed, " I perceive that 
eitlier directly or indirectly you have been 
making the acquaintance of some of our 
great people." 

" Yes," he said, savagely, " they are 
very great, at all events in their own 
estimation. As for me, I confess I cannot 
see wherein lies their superiority over the 
rest of mankind. They are intolerably rude 
and entirely wanting in good manners." 

Then he checked himself suddenly, feel- 
ing that he might possibly be committing 
an indiscretion, and that it was scarcely 
wise to abuse folk with whom Miss Lan- 
kester was probably well acquainted. For 
all he knew, they were perhaps personal 
friends of hers. 

" Forgive me," he said, turning crimson. 
" I was foro^ettincf that I miirht be hurtini? 



Your feelin<][s. 



J> 



A FRIEND IN" NEED. 15 

Slie smiled brightly, and when she smiled 
Bob could not account for the attraction 
her face possessed. With the exception of 
the eyes, it owned no really striking feature, 
and yet he admired and liked her more 
than any girl he had ever seen. His own 
sisters were ofood-lookin^]^, but there was a 
subtle refinement about Miss Lankester 
which he felt was wantim? in their case. 
Nevertheless, it was hard to define the 
difTerence. As for Lady de Fochsey, she 
seemed positively vulgar in comparison. 

" Pray don't have any fear of hurting 
my feelings," said Dot, with just a touch of 
satire audible in her clear young voice. 
" We are only small fry ; and such exalted 
personages as the Mutual Adorationites do 
not even condescend to know us. We 
regard their many virtues from a dis- 
tance " 

" The greater the better," he interrupted. 
" But," she went on, more seriously. 



16 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" you must not condemn all Englishmen 
from the specimens you may have seen to- 
day. There are some " — and a tender look 
illumined all her face — " who don't live 
exclusively for their personal pleasure and 
consider it the chief and foremost object of 
existence — men whose ideal is not mere 
amusement, but something worthier and 
nobler, and wdio see that work and work 
alone can brino^ out the f]^rit and substance 
of a man's character." 

Bob looked at his companion with 
growing interest. She spoke enthusiasti- 
cally, and her views evidently coincided 
with his own. Young as he was, he had 
arrived at a philosophy of life which in 
substance was much the same. 

" You are right, no doubt," he said. 
*' And those are the men I thought and 
hoped I should meet over here. Perhaps I 
expected too much." And he gave a sigh 
of disappointment. 



A FRIEND IN NEED. 17 

"I don't think so. You forget that 
those who represent the huntmg-field 
mostly belong to the rich and consequently 
idle class : a class without professions, and 
which has no incentive to bring its higher 
faculties into play." 

" They look down upon a fellow," said 
Bob bitterly, "because his clothes are 
different from their own, because he has 
not been born in England, and for a 
hundred and one different reasons, equally 
trifling. I am sharp enough to know what 
they think of me. They think me an 
' outsider,' and therefore cut me dead. It's 
not pleasant being cut. Miss Lankester," 
he concluded pathetically. " One can't 
help feeling it, especially when, as in my 
case, you have alwa^^s been brought up to 
look upon these men as brothers, and 
people of your own kith and kin." 

" Never mind," said DoL, soothingly. 
" Things may very likely improve after a 
VOL. II 13 



18 A CKACK COUNTY. 

bit, and in any case, you must not form 
your opinions too hastily. I only wish you 
knew a man " 

But she stopped short, and did not fmish 
the sentence. A bright blush rose to her 
face, and Bob wondered inwardly what had 
caused it, whether some chance word of 
Ais had touched any secret chord. 

" Good-bye, Mr. Jarrett," she said, after 
a somewhat prolonged pause, holding out 
her hand as she spoke. " Here we are in 
the village. You cannot possibly mistake 
your way now, since if you go straight on 
for another hundred yards you will see 
the elates of Strai^'htem Court. I turn 
down here," pointing to a side road that 
branched off at right angles from the main 
one. 

' Good-bye," said Bob, reluctantly, de- 
taining her little gloved hand decidedly 
longer than strict politeness demanded. 
" I'm tremendously obliged to you." 



A FEIEND IN NEED. 19 

"What for?" she asked, with the inno- 
cence of a child. 

" Oh ! for ever so much. I felt most 
awfully down in the mouth when you 
joined me at that beastly gate, regularly 
out of sorts all round, but thanks to your 
company, I am pounds better already." 

" I am very glad to hear it, Mr. Jarrett. 
Please keep up your spirits, and don't 
forget that we English, as a race, are not 
so bad as you seem to imagine." 

"I except the fair sex," he replied 
gallantly. " I think that English women — 
especially English girls, are perfectly de- 
lightful." 

" Oh ! so you have made their acquaint- 
ance already, have you ? " 

" Yes," he answered, raising his hat with 
the courtesy of an Elizabethan knight. " I 
have met you^ Miss Lankester. That is 
quite enough for me." 

Her smooth, pink cheek turned just a 

18* 



20 A CRACK COUNTY. 

shade pinker, but otherwise she took but 
little heed of the implied compliment. It 
did not ruffle her calm serenity. 

Dot Lankester was not a flirt. Never 
did there a girl exist less coquettishly in- 
clined. The frank simplicity of her nature 
prevented her from seeing in every man a 
possible lover ; besides, she was content 
to remain as she was. In her youth and 
innocence she believed firmly in platonic 
friendships. She was touched, too, by 
Bob's confession of loneliness. She knew 
the big house, with its cold, formal rooms, 
and retinue of servants — knew it and 
shuddered at it. Some are born for 
grandeur, some are not. Dot's idea of 
happiness was a small abode, little bigger 
than a cottage, and two softly-treading 
maids to wait upon her. She did not 
covet wealth or the pomp of this world. 

And so, she could fancy how dull and 
how home-sick the young man must feel. 



A FEIEND IN NEED. 21 

separated from all his relations, living alone 
in that great gray old place. 

It was not in her power to do much 
for him, but what little she could, she 
would. 

" Before you go, do promise faithfully 
to come on Tuesday," pleaded Bob, still 
holding her hand in his. " Surely you 
need not treat me like a stranger or stand 
on ceremony." 

She withdrew it gently, and with a little 
air of quiet dignity, which told him as well 
as actual words that he must not attempt 
to take any liberties. If they were to be 
friends, the limits of their friendshi[) must 
not be overstrained, especially on so short 
an accuaintance. 

"Thank 3^ou. I will tell my father and 
mother of your kind invitation, and an 
answer shall be sent this evening. Will 
that do ? " shortening Mouse's reins. 

" It will have to do," he said, not feeling 



22 A CRACK COUNTY. 

wholly satisfied, 3'et afraid to urge the 
matter further. 

" Good-bye, then," she said again, this 
time moving away at a fairly brisk trot. 

^' Good-bye." And cold and wet as Bob 
was, he reined in The Swell until Miss 
Lankester's girlish form had completely 
disappeared from vision. 

Coming to him as she had done, in the 
midst of his distress — the only person 
during all that day who had treated him 
kindly and with commiseration — he felt 
ready to fall down and worship at her 
feet. His imac^ination magnified a 
hundredfold the service she had performed. 

So deeply does a little sympathy sink 
into the heart of those whose sensibilities 
have been outraged and feelings wounded. 

At such times a few kind words will 
restore a man's self respect and make him 
the friend for life of the woman who utters 
them. 



A FEIEND IN KEED. 23 

Only such words are dangerous, from 
the very fact that he is apt to think too 
much of them and to take them for more 
than they are worth. 

In Bob's case, he immediately jumped 
at the conclusion, that as a specimen of a 
fair, frank Eno;iish e^irl, utterly devoid of 
conceit or affectation, there were not many 
who could compare with Miss Dorothea 
Lankester. 

He had arrived at the ag^e of four-and- 
twenty, and, strange to say, had never 
been seriously in love. The Australian 
maidens had failed to captivate his fancy, 
though perhaps the reason might have 
partly been that until now he was, not in 
a position to marry. Be this as it may, 
those five minutes spent in Miss Dot's 
society, her gray eyes, and fresh young 
face, put some very strange and novel 
ideas into his head. 

He himself was startled by their presence 



24 A CRACK COUNTY. 

and by the suddenness with which they 
took form and shape. Only yesterday he 
would have been the very readiest to laugh 
at such a thin^ as love at first sii?ht. To- 
day he was by no means so sure that 
it was as idiotic and absurd as he had 
hitherto maintained. 



CHAPTEE II. 

FIKST IMPRESSIONS. 

Had our friend Bob not had the good 
fortune to encounter Dot Lankester when 
he did, he would most assuredly have 
sunk in the lowest depths of despair on 
proceeding to review the results of the 
day, to which he had looked forward with 
such a large amount of youthful enthusiasm. 
Few pleasures equal the anticipation that 
they excite. When they do they are too 
short-lived to produce any substantial 
satisfaction. Only a few brief moments, 
snatched from the dreary waste of life^ 
which we fain would lengthen if we could, 
but whose very brightness makes the dull 
daily path seem darker in comparison. 



2G A CKACK COU^'TY. 

Ever}^ human being lias an .insatiate — 
peril aps a selfish — desire for happiness. It 
is all very well to philosophize, to preach 
wisdom, moderation and content. When 
we are first put into the world, and are 
young and sanguine, we all of us expect 
something from it. We look upon it as a 
kind of fairy godmother, who will certainly 
grant our wishes and fulfil our desires. It 
takes a good many years to learn the 
truth, and the learning is seldom pleasant. 
Some never learn it. The lesson is too 
hard. They cannot understand why, 
instead of showering good gifts upon 
their children, the world only robs them 
of their small possessions, and takes away 
with hard covetous hand, faith, hope and 
illusion. What then is left ? Little save 
endurance. A growing apatli}- which 
renders the buffets of Fate a trifle less hard 
to bear, and a conviction of the pettiness 
of human strivings, when opposed to the 



FIRST IMPEESSIONS. 27 

stern, resistless pressure of nature. A 
sense of defeat still huncr over Bob. He 
was as sore morally as if lie had been 
thoroughly thrashed for an uncommitted 
offence. Nevertheless the remembrance of 
Dot's innocent face, when she had looked 
up into his own and offered to lend him 
her cob, exercised a wonderfully soothing 
effect upon his over-wrought nervous 
system. 

It contrived to render bearable what 
otherwise would have seemed wholly un- 
bearable. For his heart was full of wrath 
when he reflected upon the reception 
accorded him by the master of the Morbey 
Anstead hounds and his friend General 
Prosieboy. It was useless trying to per- 
suade himself that he did not care. He did 
care, and moreover very deeply ; although 
he declared inwardly that he was every bit 
as ofood as these men who affected to 
despise him. But it was not enough for 



28 A CTACK COL'NTY. 

him to know the fact, he wanted them to 
acknowledge it also. Besides, was he not 
their neighbour, and the owner of lands 
broad and goodly ? Surely these latter 
entitled him to some consideration. 

In short, Bob was very angry, almost 
as angry as he had been when he had 
caught one of his cowboys red-handed in 
the act of torturing some cattle. From 
that day until this no such volcano had 
racked within his breast. He hardlv realized 
what tumultuous passions he possessed. 
But if he was quick-tempered, he was not 
vindictive. 

By the time he had eaten a good dinner, 
comforted the inner man by flesh, and fowl, 
and wine, his anger gradually cooled. He 
was thoroughly warm again now, having as 
soon as the eveninir meal came to an end 

o 

taken up his quarters in the smallest and 
cosiest sitting-room in the house, and 
ensconced himself in a luxurious arm- 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

chair before a blazing fire, whose blue 
and yellow flames shot merrily up the 
chimney licking its sooty sides with greedy 
avidity. 

A long day's hunting in the open air, 
especially when accompanied by an increase 
of the physical temperature, gives birth to 
a gentle lassitude, which promotes dreams, 
and renders a state of do nothing not only 
permissible but enjoyable. 

A man feels at such seasons that he 
has earned a right to repose, and nine 
times out of ten gives himself up to 
slumber, or, if not to slumber, to quiet 
meditation which encroaches on the 
borderland of sleep. Bob began by going 
over all his experiences since the morning. 
He summed up the pleasures and the pains 
with almost morbid precision, trying hard 
not to detract from the former, or to 
exao^nrerate the latter. But do what he 
would the pains preponderated until, down 



30 A CEACK COU^'TY, 

the road of thought, his brain travelled as 
far as Miss Dot. 

There he came to a complete halt, 
almost as if he did not care to pursue his 
retrospections further, but was quite con- 
tent to dwell upon the image conjured up 
by her frank face, bright eyes and soft 
fresh tints. 

And all of a sudden it occurred to him, 
like a genuine flash of inspiration, that the 
big, desolate house, with its empty rooms, 
and uninhabited appearance, might wear a 
very diflerent and more home-like aspect if 
presided over by a clear-headed, sweet- 
voiced mistress. What was wanting at 
Straightem Court was a gracious, feminine 
influence. He had felt it from the first 
moment he set foot inside the hall, but now 
there could be no doubt whatever about 
the matter. A man alone could not 
possibly keep authority in the household, 
or make the intricate wheels of domestic 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 31 

life run smoothly. How was he to order 
dinner, and add up the butcher's book, and 
keep peace between the maid-servants ? 
There was only one answer to such a 
question, and that answer was — impossible. 
He could look after cattle and sheep, attend 
to the farm and stables, but as to ordering 
in legs of mutton and sirloins of beef — why 
he simply could not do it. He revolted at 
the mere thought of entering into such 
petty details. As for women, it was the 
business of their lives. Man-like it never 
struck him that the same " petty details " 
which worried him while he scorned them 
have rendered many a woman miserable, 
and laid a daily burden on her shoulders 
under the weight of which she often 
groans. 

But there is no escape for her. One of 
the chief uses of a wife is to lay the blame of 
everything that happens at her door. And 
for this reason, of all luxuries she is the 



32 A CRACK COUNTY. 

greatest. It is so easy and so nice to be able 
to say in a loud, chiding voice, " My dear, it 
is your fault. I told you to do it," or, " Why 
the dickens have you made such a regular 
mull of things all round ? " 

The responsibility is shifted, very con- 
veniently, and the poor " luxury " can only 
mumble feeble excuses and in her turn 
try to implicate Mary Anne or Susan Jane. 

Bob had had about ten days' house- 
keeping, and already he wished to resign 
tlie situation. He told himself that with a 
nice little wife sitting opposite, even 
English dinners might prove enjoyable. 
His imagination could not conceive of Mrs. 
Eobert P. Jarrett's fascinations being put to 
a greater test, but he believed Dot would 
emerge from the ordeal triumphant. True, 
he was very young to think of marrying ; 
indeed, up till now, he had always been a 
staunch advocate of the theory that men 
should have their flino^ — and a i2"ood one 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 33 

too — before settling down to jog-trot 
matrimony. 

But it is astonishing how a pretty 
face and good eyes will revolutionize the 
most strong-minded male's theories, crumb- 
ling them to the very dust with lightning- 
like rapidity. They can alter a man's whole 
train of reasoning in a few seconds, and 
more wonderful still, make him advance an 
entirely new line of argument. No deserter 
in action could possibly change front with 
greater speed or make m-ore plausible 
excuses for his conduct. 

Bob, who hitherto had professed to be a 
confirmed bachelor, felt suddenly convinced 
that the proper thing to do was to marry a 
girl directly 3^ou saw one who you thought 
wouM suit you. Only fools shilly-shallied 
under such circumstances. 

The funny thing was how, after five 
short minutes' conversation with Dot, he 
should have arrived at so momentous a 
VOL. II. 19 



34 A CRACK COUNTY. 

conclusion as to believe that lie had cer- 
tainly discovered his affinity, and could not 
possibly be enchained by any other. 

How men can flatter themselves they 
know anything of a woman's real character 
in such a brief space of time is marvellous, 
to say the least of it. And yet that they 
do so imagine is seen every day of one's 
life, and proved by the ill-assorted and 
incongruous couples so frequently met 
with. A face endowed by nature with 
certain good points, a pink and white com- 
plexion and a nice expression, is quite 
sufficient to convince the lords of creation 
that they know the proprietor perfectly 
well. Just think of it ! 1 hiow woman ! 
that masterpiece of caprice, of fitful moods 
and sudden impulses ; that coy, uncertain, 
changeable creature who does not even 
pretend to know herself, and who admits 
the variabilit}" of her character. 

Oh ! men, beware of your passions. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 35 

They render you blind as the veriest mole 
that ever burrowed earth. For fully an 
hour Bob sat there musing rapturously on 
Miss Dot's perfections. Then by degrees a 
sleepy inclination stole over him. At last 
he made a vie^orous effort, and risinn^ from 
the arm-chair, laid aside his pipe and went 
towards the writing table. It was some 
time since he had written to his mother, 
and she would be e^ettin^f anxious if she did 
not hear from him. Therefore he sat down 
and inscribed the following letter ; 

" Dearest Mother, 

" I sent you a hurried account of 
my uncle's sudden death and the altered 
circumstances in which it left me. Even 
now I can scarcely realize all that has 
happened, or appreciate what I suppose 
most people would call my good fortune. 
I need not say that I wish you and my 
brothers and sisters to share in it. It 

19* 



36 A CRACK COUNTY. 

is unnecsssary attempting to describe 
Straightem Court to yon, because of course 
you know it well. I will only mention that 
in size and grandeur it far exceeds my 
expectations. Indeed, I often think I 
should like the place better if it were not 
quite so big. Ten days have elapsed since 
my arrival, and I begin to doubt if I shall 
ever settle down. Everything seems so 
new and so stran(]fe — fon^ive me if I add 
so dull and so formal. There is a want 
of freedom here, a stifTness and a conven- 
tionality which produce a stifling effect 
upon me. People all seem to jog on in 
one little narrow groove, from which they 
either cannot or will not emancipate them- 
selves. The consequence is there is very 
little real independence, such as we see at 
home ; the ladies and gentlemen are very 
much to be pitied in my opinion ; as far as 
I have had an opportunit}- of judging, they 
are mere slaves to their establishments, 



IIKST IMPRESSIONS. 37 

their institutions and their bodily comforts. 
They are like a flock of sheep ; if one treads 
a particular path they all follow, however 
inconvenient and ridiculous it may be. 
Appearances are evidently a great deal 
studied in this country ; the verdict of the 
world carries much weight, yet in curious 
contradiction to this fact, the upper classes 
seem going to the dogs altogether. From 
what I gather, their morality is at a very 
low ebb. Even dukes and duchesses fij^ure 
in the Divorce Court. There is a famous 
case going on now, some of the details of 
which would simply horrify you. The men 
here have no veneration for women ; it is 
dreadful the way they speak of them, and 
yet I am informed that in fashionable 
society the women deserve all they get. 
But whether they do, or whether they 
don't, it seems to me a mean, unmanly sort 
of thing to go about backbiting the poor 
creatures. You will think I have turned 



S8 A CKACK COUNTY. 

very censorious, so now for a change of 
subject. I went out hunting to-day for the 
first time ; the sport is a grand one ; I 
don't believe there is another that can 
compare with it, and yet it seems odd too, 
wherein the pleasure consists of chasing a 
little red animal, and running the risk of 
breaking your bones, if not your neck, in 
the pursuit. But there are some things 
that don't bear analyzing and, thank good- 
ness ! fox-hunting is one of them. May it 
never be picked to pieces by a herd of 
dissecting critics, for when it ceases to 
exist England's day will be done, and she 
can take a back seat among the nations ; 
so much for the glorious chase. You see 
what an enthusiast it has made of me. But 
the field ! the people ! those genial, jovial 
squires whose acquaintance I so longed to 
make ; words cannot describe the insolence 
of their manners towards an unoflendiufT 
stranger. To tell you how they treated 



fIRST IMPRESSIONS. 39 

your first-born, mother dear, would only 
pain you. Therefore I pass over my re- 
ception in silence. Suffice it that all my 
illusions are gone, I fear me, never to 
return. The question is, whether I shall 
be able to live amongst these people. And 
this brings me to an important point. 
How strange it seems having to communi- 
cate one's plans by letter. At present it is 
horribly cold over here, and later on the 
climate becomes, if possible, worse. Now 
what I would propose is this. In the 
spring I must certainly return to Australia, 
if only to wind up afi'airs and hand over 
the farm to Dick. Instead, therefore, of 
you and the girls joining me at once, 
leaving warmth and sunshine and coming 
to frost and fogs, I am of opinion that it 
would be far wiser to defer your journey, 
until the winter is over. Then we might 
all travel back together. What do you say 
to this idea? To tell the honest truth, I 



40 A CRACK COUNTY. 

feel as if my life here were an experiment. 
I may or I may not settle to it. In two or 
three months' time I should be in a better 
position to judge whether you and the girls 
are likely to be as happy at Straightem 
Court as at home. We have been colonists 
so long that frequently I have misgivings 
as to our ever succeedino^ in convertinoj 
ourselves into fine gentlemen and ladies 
of the orthodox type. One needs to be 
brought up to it. To break up our dear 
old home before we are perfectly -certain 
the new one will suit us, appears to me an 
imprudent act. For myself, it is quite on 
the cards that you may see me, at any 
time, return unexpectedly. I feel awfully 
homesick already, and miss you all most 
dreadfully. I never thought it would be 
possible to get so dead tired of one's own 
society. Nobody has condescended to call 
upon me so far, except a couple of parsons, 
who both immediately begged for subscrip- 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS. 41 

tions to various charities. Tlie County 
people seem a very stuck-up lot. I don't 
wonder you preferred my father, and 
showed your good sense by running away 
from them. And now, dear mother, I am 
very tired and very sleepy, and must leave 
off. Give my love to Belle and Tot tie, and 
the little ones, and tell Dick from me that 
I trust to him to look after you well in my 
absence. 

" Ever your affectionate son, 

" EOBERT P. JaRRETT." 

Kot a word of Miss Lankester. Some- 
thing made Bob shy of mentioning her 
name, even to those he confided in most. 

And yet he felt as guilty as if he were 
concealing a secret of vital importance. 
He re-read his letter, and made some 
trifling corrections. But when he came 
to the end a sudden impulse urged him 
to add : 



42 A CRACK COU.NTY. 

"I forgot to tell you that I am giving 
my first dinner-party to-morrow night. It 
is almost absurd to call it by such a name, 
since the company consist only of a Doctor 
and Mrs. Lankester and their daughter. 
They live in the village, and are my nearest 
neighbours." 

Bob perused this postcript with consider- 
able self-approbation. It satisfied his 
conscience and yet revealed nothing. He 
felt proud of having handled such a 
delicate matter with so much skill, for if, 
at any future time, there should be any- 
thing to tell, then he flattered himself that 
he had paved the way for teUing it. At 
least the name of Lankester would not 
burst like a bombshell upon the family 
circle. 

As he sealed up his letter Charles 
brought in a note on a silver salver. 

It was from Dot. 



FIE ST IMPRESSIONS. 43 

The contents were brief enousfh. 



o 



" Dear Mr. Jarrett, 

" My father and mother wish me 
to thank you for your kind invitation, and 
to say that we shall be very pleased to dine 
with you to-morrow at half-past seven. 

" Hoping you feel none the worse for 
having got so wet, believe me, 
" Yours sincerely, 

" Dorothea Lankester." 

Only a formal note of acceptance, worded 
in polite but distant language, and yet Bob 
gazed at it with rapturous admiration. 

What a pretty handwriting she wrote! 
so clean, and neat, and thoroughly feminine. 
He liked the way she crossed her t's and 
dotted her i's ; there was a deal of character 
about them. And then he took to specu- 
latin^f how the si^j^nature would look if it 
were signed Dorothea Jarrett instead of 
Dorothea Lankester. 



44 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Lankester was a fine, hi^h-soundin<? 
name. The sort of name just suited for 
the heroine of a novel, but for all that 
there was something very pleasing about 
Jarrett. 

D. for Dorothea, and J. for Jarrett went 
well together — very well, he considered. 

So, with his head stuffed full of strange 
new thoughts, this hitherto sensible young 
man went to bed, and — dreamt of Miss 
Dot? 

Not he. 

He was far too tired and stiff to indulge 
in any trance-like visions. 

The dun cob, the gray eyes, the frank, 
innocent face, all faded from his mind as if 
they had been a mirage, and settling down 
between the sheets he slept like a top. 



CHAPTEE III. 

GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 

Punctually at half-past seven next morn- 
ing Bob was roused from his dreamless 
slumbers by Charles, who, after tapping at 
the door and receiving no response, entered 
the room majestically, and began pulling 
up the blinds with noisy clumsiness. 

" Hulloa ! Charles, is that you ? What's 
the time ? " yawned Bob. 

" It has just gone half-past seven, sir." 
" By Jove ! You don't say so." 
And before he was thoroughly awake 
Bob jumped out of bed, goaded by the 
knowledge that he had a journey to take. 
After his experiences of the previous day 
the indifTerence to personal appearance 
which he had hitherto displayed vanished 



46 A CRACK COUNTY. 

miraculously. He was prepared to admit 
that there mif^^ht be somethincj in clothes 
after all. Those soft snowy leathers and 
brifjht scarlet coats undoubtedly did set a 
man off. Until he had actually seen them 
with his own eyes he could not have 
realized how great an effect they pro- 
duced. In fact, all Bob's ideas on the 
subject of adornment had undergone a 
complete transformation. He was now 
filled with a consuming desire to appear 
out hunting dressed precisely as his neigh- 
bours were dressed. 

Consequently he had decided to run up 
to town, and lose no time in ordering a 
suitable stock of boots and breeches. 
Although he had said as little as possible 
about the discomforts caused by his attire, 
and the breaking of those elastic straps, he 
had been unable to prevent Charles from 
acquiring a tolerably accurate knowledge 
of the situation ; and Charles had stron^^ly 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 47 

advised and approved of his going to 
London and purchasing a proper hunting 
kit without any delay. 

" I told you afore you went 'unting 'ow 
it would be, sir," he said with a malicious 
chuckle. Consequently Bob had studied 
the Bradshaw, and discovered that if he 
rose tolerably early he could reach the 
metropolis a little after eleven o'clock and 
return in time for dinner. 

So he dressed hurriedly, ate an excellent 
breakfast, and by half-past eight was bowling 
alonor to the station in a lioht, two- 
wheeled cart, drawn by a hog-maned, 
fast-trotting pony. 

The morninsf was fresh and brio-ht. 

The bifif, OTeen fields on either side of 
the hedgerows were steeped in pale, yellow 
sunshine, not fierce and glaring as in the 
summer-time, but cool, light, clear, and 
refreshing to the eye. Every now and 
again a swift, dark cloud shadow would 



48 A CRACK COUNTY. 

come coursinrr alonnf their emerald surface, 
for a few minutes converting all the vivid 
tints into a sombre grey. But as it raced 
ahead it was beautiful to behold the glory 
of leaf and blade bursting out afresh, 
appearing yet brighter and greener for 
their temporary obliteration. 

Big, black, limpid-eyed oxen stood close 
under the hedges, rubbing their broad, 
scurfy foreheads against the knotted twigs, 
and slowly but steadily boring apertures 
in the thick fences with their strong, 
polished horns. 

Gay autumnal hues adorned the trees ; 
red, brown and vellow combined to render 
their last span of life beautiful. Their 
tall, irregular tops towered up towards the 
faint blue sky, and in places where the 
leaves had already fallen, revealed the 
delicate network of their construction. 
As for the birds, thev were twitterinix and 
chirping, flitting and alighting, almost as 



GETIING UP A FLIRTATION. 49 

if the time of year had been March instead 
of November, forojettin^ that the winter 

'DO 

was approaching with its cruel frosts, cold 
snows, and pitiless winds. They recked 
not of the future, wee, happy, thoughtless 
things ! The present with its gladsome 
sunshine was all they cared about, 
believing that this one bright day would 
last for ever. 

As Bob drove along, the cool, bracing 
air bringing a healthy glow to his cheeks, 
he thought that never had he been out on 
such a fair m_orning. What struck him 
most was the astonishing greenness of every- 
thing. Here was no sign of drought or 
barrenness, but everywhere the same 
verdant, fertile stretches of undulating 
pastures meeting the sky-line and extend- 
ing in all directions, far as the eye could 
reach. It was a perfect harmony of blue 
and green, with a dash of yellow thrown 

in to give light to the whole. 

VOL. II. 20 



50 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Bob arrived at the station in good time, 
took his ticket, purchased a morning paper, 
and ensconced himself in a smoking- 
carriage. 

He waited thus some minutes, when 
befrinnini^ to wonder why the train did not 

DO J 

start he put his head out of tlie window. 
Then for the first time he became aware 
of a commotion on the phxtform, which 
appeared to be caused by a dapper little 
female figure, enveloped in a thick Scotch 
ulster, that presentl}^ came tripping along 
as fast as it could move for a pair of brand 
new, and evidently extremely tight, hunt- 
ing boots. 

" I'm late, dreadfully late," cried an 
excited feminine voice, speaking in high, 
agitated tones. "There was a mistake 
about the horse-box. Put me in any- 
where ; I'm not at all particular." 

Bob had already fdled and lit a favourite 
cherry-wood pipe. The next moment, to 



GEITING UP A FLIRTATION. 51 

his no small discomfiture, lie found the 
owner of the voice securely locked into 
his compartment by a stalwart, red-bearded 
guard. 

" What an idiot that boy of mine is, to 
be sure ! " exclaimed the fair one crossly, 
apparently too much flustered to notice 
that she was not alone, and evidently vent- 
ing her wrath by giving utterance to it 
aloud. " I declare if he didn't go and take 
a ticket for Master ton, when I told him as 
distinctly as possible overnight that I 
intended hunting with the Gallopers to-day 
instead of with the Seldom Kill hounds. 
I really think I shall have to give him 
warning. His stupidity is too great for 
anything." 

So saying, she stood up and smoothed 
her ruffled plumes, buttoned up her ulster, 
and generally adjusted her toilette, the 
finishing touches of which had clearly been 
performed in a hurry. Tlie train whistled, 



52 A CRACK COUNTV. 

an'l raovel slowly out of the station. She 
was jerked back into her seat, and Bob 
half rose to go to her assistance. 

The reco2^nition was instantaneous. 

" Lady De Fochsey ! " he exclaimed. 

"Mr. Jarrett!" she ejaculated on her 
rtide, in well-pleased accents, for Bob's 
fresh, good-looking face had already made 
an impression upon her ladyship out hunt- 
ing, and she was determined to get up a 
flirtation, in the hopes that that long deferred 
passion might possibly spring into life. 
''I do hope you will forgive my forcing 
m}^ company upon you in this exceedingly 
unceremonious fashion, but the truth is, 
I was so abominably late that I really 
had not time to notice whether the 
guard put me into a smoking-carriage or 
not." 

(As a matter of fact, she invariably chose 
one by preference, having a rooted dislike 
to the society of her own sex, but this 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATIOJ^. 53 

idiosyncrasy slie did not deem fit to 
mention.) 

" Pray don't apologize," said Bob 
politely, knocking the tobacco out of his 
pipe with an alacrity more feigned than 
real. 

" Oh ! Mr. Jarrett, why did you do 
that ? " 

" I thought you might object to smoke. 
Nine ladies out of ten do." 

" I don't. Not in the least. I assure 
you I'm quite accustomed to it. Besides " 
— castincr a lanijuishinsf f^^lance at him from 
under her goldenish eyelashes — " you need 
not mind me, surely." 

" I can't help minding you," he res- 
ponded audaciously, having alread}^ 
decided that if he indulged in a few 
flowers of speech, there was not much fear 
of his meetino' with a rebuff. " You are 
far too charming to be ignored, wherever 
you may be." 



54 A CRACK COU^^TY. 

She smiled encouragingly. This young 
man promised uncommonly well ; better 
even than she had suspected. She had 
feared he might prove shy, but now she 
altered her opinion. If there was one thing 
she loved in this world, it was a good, 
honest, outspoken admission of her charms. 
If only her admirers would keep on telling 
her that she was prett}^, fascinating, divine, 
she could forgive them almost any im- 
pertinence. She was not very strait-laced, 
but flattery she must have. 

'' When are you coming to see me ? " she 
inquired coquettishly, in answer to Bob's 
remark. 

" When are you going to ask me ? " he 
rejoined, giving up any attempt at reading 
the newspaper, and seating himself directly 
opposite to her. 

" I have asked you already, Mr. 
Jarrett." 

" Only in a very general way. I don't 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 65 

prefer your specifying a day, if you have 
no objection." 

" Dear me ! " slie exclaimed, " liow 
punctilious we are, to be sure ! Do you 
always stand on so much ceremony ? One 
is not accustomed to it now-a-days." 

" Yes," answered Bob gravely, " when- 
ever there is a pretty woman in the case, I 
would rather have five minutes' chat with 
her alone than three hours in the presence 
of a dozen other men. The fact of the 
matter is, I'm covetous, and prefer not 
sharing my bone." 

Lady De Fochsey was delighted. She 
thoroughly enjoyed this style of conversa- 
tion, and moreover possessed the happy 
faculty of believing that where she herself 
was concerned men meant all they said, and 
were perfectly sincere in their professions 
of admiration. 

" Oh, you flatterer!" she said, shaking 
her blonde head playfully at him, " you are 



56 A CKACK COUlsTY. 

trying to put me off with compliments, 
instead of settling a day for your visit. I 
call that too bad." 

" Such an idea never entered my head," 
protested Bob. " When is your ladyship 
at home ? " 

" I'm alwa3's at home to my particular 
friends." 

" And may I venture to think myself 
included in their number ? " 

" Now, Mr. Jarrett, you want to 
know too much. That's hardly a fair 
question." 

"Perhaps not," he admitted. " I'll ask 
you another one instead. Tell me, is not 
Sunday generally supposed to be a good 
day for calling, or do your devotions 
prevent you from receiving gentlemen on 
that afternoon ? " 

" Oh ! dear no, not at all." 
" Ah ! I'm glad to hear it. I was afraid 
you might have some religious scruples on 



GETTING CP A FLIRTATION. 57 

the subject." He spoke with just a touch 
of sarcasm, which she detected and 
resented. 

" T do not know why you should have 
imagined anything half so foolish," she re- 
joined tartly. " And as for my religious 
scruples, I flatter myself that I possess 
neither more nor less than my neighbours. 
Perhaps you mayn't believe me, but I 
always make a point of going to church 
every Sunday morning, if only for the sake 
of the example." 

" One attendance franks you for the rest 
of the day, I presume ? " said Bob, with a 
laugh. 

She recovered her orood humour. It was 
a relief to find he was not disagreeably 
strict. 

" Well, yes, it does, I confess." 

" Ah ! I thought so." 

" For my part," she said decidedly, " I 
can't see the least harm in entertaining a 



A CRACK COUNTY. 



few amusing people on a Sabbath after- 



noon." 



" Neither can I," he acquiesced, quite 
aj^proving of the sentiment. 

" In that case, Mr. Jarrett, I shall expect 
you on Sunday without fail." 

" How long an audience do you grant 
your admirers at a time. Lady de Fochsey? 
Ten minutes, quarter of an hour ? " 

She laughed her little, thin, artificial 
lau^li. 

" You shall have a whole hour if you are 
good, and promise to come early." 

" That I certainly will. The instant I've 
gobbled my lunch I shall set out." 

" Do. I live quite close to Straightem 
Court, Mr. Jarrett. Only about two miles ; 
it's nothing of a walk, and I hope you will 
come over often.'* 

" Thanks, you are very kind. And I can 
assure you that were the walk ten times as 
long I should think nothing of the distance 



GETTING UP A PLIETATION. 59 

with such a reward awaitino^ me at the end 
of it." 

She put out her foot, and glanced coyly 
down at it. It was a very pretty one, and 
she was quite aware of the fact, and saw 
no reason why other people should not 
become acquainted with it too. A clever 
woman always makes the most of her good 
points, and hides the bad ones. Lady De 
Fochsey was not a bit ashamed of her foot, 
no — nor of her ancle either. Thank good- 
ness ! they were both symmetrical and 
patrician, though her people were nobodies, 
and she herself was only in the position of 
a poorly paid companion, when Sir 
Jonathan had been smitten by her charms. 
■ " Really, Mr. Jarrett," she said, in honied 
tones, " you will quite turn my head if 
you will insist on paying me so many 
compliments." 

It was a regular invitation to repeat the 
offence. At all events, Bob, who was no 



60 A CRACK COUNTY. 

fool, construed her ladyship's accusation 
as such, and construed it aright. 

" I don't think it altogether fair to lay 
the whole blame at my door," he responded, 
feeling more and more amused by her 
transparent coquetries, and evident desire 
to e^a: him on. 

" Why not ? " she inquired with a 
simper. 

" For the very simple reason that if that 
extremely pretty little head of yours were 
capable of being turned in such a manner, 
the mischief must have been done lon^j 
since. I can only be one of many 



sinners.'* 



" Positively, Mr. Jarrett, if you go on 
talking in this foolish fashion, I shall have 
to impose a fine upon you," she rejoined, 
her whole countenance beamini]: with 
deliij^ht. 

" Any fine imposed upon me by 
your ladyship would be rapturously ac- 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 61 

cepted," he said, not able to refrain from 
laughter. 

Then thinking she might wonder at his 
mirth, and also that he had administered 
enough sugar — at any rate for the present 
— he added more seriously : 

" By the-by, where are you going to 
hunt to-day ? " 

"I? Oh! with the Gallopers. I get 
out at the next station " 

"So soon?" interrupted Bob, with a 
well-simulated sigh. 

" Yes, you ridiculous creature. So soon, 
and what's more, I shan't have any too 
much time, as I have to ride nearly twelve 
miles to the meet." 

" I had no idea you were so determined 
a Diana. But won't it make a very long 
day for you ? " he inquired, wondering at 
her energy. 

"It would, only, luckily for me, I am 
not coming home to-night. A great friend 



62 A CRACK COUNTY. 

of mine, a Mrs. St. John, has asked me to 
stay at her house this evening. In fact, 
that was the principal reason why I deter- 
mined to hunt to-day. I wanted to see the 
Gallopers, and I also wanted to attend a 
private seance, which is to take place 
to-night at Mrs. St. John's." 

" A what ? " echoed Bob, in tones of 
bewilderment. 

" A seance. Surely you must know what 
that means." 

"Not exactl3% There are so many 
different kinds." 

" Mrs. St. John is a firm believer in 
spiritualism," explained Lady De Fochsey, 
" and she has invited a well-known medium 
down from town, on purpose to try and 
obtain some fresh manifestations. Onlv a 
few chosen spirits are to be present." 

" Do you go in for that kind of thing ? " 
asked Bob, thinking what a queer mixture 
his companion was. 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 63 

" A little," she answered, dropping her 
voice to a mysterious whisper. " Mind 
you don't tell anybody. I don't wish it 
known all over the hunting-field, but I'm 
developing psychic force." 

" Oh ! indeed, and pray how do you 
develop it?" 

" I can't tell you now. It would take 
too long, but I will some other time. 
Unfortunately I don't get on very fast." 

"How's that? Uncongenial influences?" 

" Yes, partly," she replied. " The diffi- 
cult thincr is that the electric current, 
which by many is supposed to be the 
foundation of all spiritualism, can only be 
communicated in my case by means of a 
kindred spirit." 

" And do you mean to tell me that you 
have never come across one ? " asked Bob 
incredulously. 

She looked up at him with an odd, 
uncertain expression. 



U A CI^ACK COUNTY. 

" No, Mr. Jarrett, I have not." 

Then the blue eyes dropped suddenly, 
and she added hesitatingly : " But — per- 
haps — I may now. Who knows ? " and up 
went those azure orbs again, with the most 
infantine and innocent of looks. Somehow 
they seemed to go right through Bob, and 
to produce a most uncomfortable sensation, 
just as if he were being requested to per- 
form some action which went acjainst the 
grain. He reddened up to the very roots 
of his hair, and remained transfixed, as it 
were, until her gaze was withdrawn. What 
a queer little mortal she was ! He couldn't 
make her out at all. 

Did she intend to convey the idea that 
he was the kindred spirit whose advent had 
been expected and looked forward to for 
so many years ? His modesty took alarm 
at the thought. 

And yet she was very pretty in her little, 
neat, got-up style, very pretty — and veri/. 



GETTINa UP A FLIRTATION. 65 

VERY amusing^. iSTevertheless so embarrassed 
did he feel by Lady De Fochsey's words 
and more than gracious manner, that it 
was quite a relief when the train in which 
they were travelling rushed into a station, 
and the lady declared that she had arrived 
at her destination. 

" How quickly the time has gone, to be 
sure ! " she exclaimed regretfully, gather- 
ing up her skirt, her hunting crop and her 
worsted gloves . " I had no idea we were 
so near Millingboro' ! It only shows what 
an agreeable companion you have been. 
Good-bye, Mr. Jarrett ; don't forget to 
come on Sunday." And she waved the tips 
of her fingers airily, and hopped out on to 
the platform before Bob had had time to 
recover his self-possession. 

" Is there nothing I can do for you ? " 
he asked, with a sudden sense of relief. 
"I will go and see after your horse-box if 
you like." 

VOL. II. 21 



66 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" My dear, foolish young man, don't 
think of such a thing. Why, your train 
starts again immediately. Ta ! ta ! And 
don't lose your heart in the gay but vicious 
metropolis." 

So saying Lady De Fochsey walked 
away, and as the train once more moved 
off Bob could hear a high-pitched feminine 
voice, shorn of all its dulcet and melodious 
intonations, scolding away at an unfortu- 
nate groom. 

" Phew ! " he exclaimed, as he settled 
himself in his seat, and once more re-lit 
the cherry-wood pipe. " That woman's a 
rum 'un, and no mistake. Awful sport, 
though, if she weren't quite such a hum- 
bug, and didn't stare at you in such a 
funny way. I wonder what the deuce she 
means by it." And then he thought of 
somebody who, he would stake his life, was 
as true and honest as the day ; somebody 
who did not look at men in tliat queer, 



GETTING UP A FLIRTATION. 67 

equivocal fashion, who scorned petty arti- 
fices and unjustifiable means of rendering 
herself attractive, and who, on that very 
account, was a hundred thousand times 
more so. 

Fancv his talkin^^f to Miss Lankester in 
the free and easy style he had at once 
adopted when addressing Lady De Fochsey. 
He could imagine how wide the gray eyes 
would open with indignant amazement. 

And now that he was alone, and re- 
moved from her ladyship's fascination, he 
even blamed himself for havinc^ been so 
familiar. The temptation certainly was 
great. It takes a very strong man to 
resist the advances of a good-looking 
woman. He may pick ever so many holes 
in her afterwards, but at the time, he can't 
help feeling flattered and amused, and if 
she gives him an inch, takes a liberal elL 
Masculine nature will out. 

Furthermore an irresistible sense of 

21* 



63 A CRACK COUNTY. 

mischief had arisen within Bob's bosom. 
It was fun — splendid fun, paying the vain 
little woman high-flown compliments and 
seeing the avidity with which she swallowed 
them ; but, nevertheless, when he came 
calmly to review his own conduct, he was 
fain to admit that such silly, butterfly 
specimens of the female sex could not exist 
unless men encouraged them. 

It was the perpetual fostering of their 
vanity by speeches containing not a germ 
of truth, but which were accepted by the 
listener in perfect good faith, that was 
responsible for so painful and preposterous 
a pitch of feminine idiotcy. 

In his heart of hearts, despite her youth, 
position, and personal attractions, Bob felt 
repulsed rather than drawn towards Lady 
De Fochsey. She represented a type of 
womanhood which he both pitied and de- 
spised. And yet he did not for one instant 
believe that there was any real harm in 



GETTING UP A FLILTATION. G9 

her. She was only silly — very silly and 
frivolous. But lie experienced an uncom- 
fortable conviction, that he had encouraged 
her to be even more silly and more 
frivolous, just for his own amusement. 

Was this right, or gentlemanly, or 
honourable ? 

He preferred not to answer the question. 

For he had sense enough, and good 
feeling enough to know that female cre- 
dulity, vanity, and folly, all combined, in 
the absence of much heart and a total 
deficiency of head- piece, render a woman 
one of the saddest spectacles on the face 
of this earth. 

As for what lad been eaid between them 
when one came to analyze the conversation, 
a single word summed it up. 

That word was rubbish — unmitigated 
rubbish from bef^inning to end. 

Yet, no doubt, this was the wny pccj^le 
talked in polite society. 



CHAPTER lY. 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 



Bob returned from town in an extremely 
satisfied state of mind. Fortune had 
favoured him almost beyond his expecta- 
tions, for on driving to Messrs. Tautz and 
Son's well-known establishment, in order 
to be measured for some breeches, he was 
lucky enough to find a pair that had just 
been returned which exactly fitted him. 

These he purchased on the spot, de- 
lic^hted to have somethinir to fall back 
upon during the time his own were being 
made. After enjoining haste, he repaired 
to another celebrated emporium, and spent 
a small fortune in boots, gaiters, &c. 

Altogether, the day's expedition proved 



LEFT IN THE LURCfl. 71 

a great success, and although quite a week, 
if not more, must elapse before he could 
array himself in the full glories of a brand 
new red coat, still as long as his nether 
limbs were suitably cased, he no longer 
felt afraid of appearing in the hunting field. 
Evv^n General Prosieboy would not seem 
half so formidable when opposed by boots 
and breeches as immaculate as his own. 
As for bow-tying, Charles had promised to 
give him a lesson, and initiate him into all 
the diflSculties of that delicate art. 

Bob reached Straight em Court just in 
time to dress for dinner. 

In honour of Miss Lankester he had 
given orders for the drawing-room to be 
lit up, and to this room he therefore re- 
paired to receive his guests. The house- 
maids had been busy most of the forenoon, 
removing brown holland covers, taking up 
druggets, and shaking out curtains. Con- 
sequently Bob was unprepared ibr the 



72 A CKACK COLWTV. 

gorgeousness now revealed. As he stood 
warming himself before the fire, with his 
back leanin<2f asjainst the solid marble 
mantelpiece, he looked round complacently 
at the old-fashioned crimson and ^ilt fur- 
niture, the rich velvet hangings, and elabo- 
rately decorated walls on which Cupids and 
cherubims were freel}^ represented. The 
style of the whole thing was perhaps rather 
florid, but Bob knew very little of the 
tenets held by the JEsthetic school ; he had 
not been educated up to the sun- flower and 
the lily, the bulrush and the peacock, and 
therefore considered the general appear- 
ance of his drawing-room highly satisfac- 
tory. 

Of course, if later on. Miss Dot wished 
anything changed, or innovations in- 
troduced, she had only to say the word. 
In matters of taste. Bob was quite willing 
to defer his judgment to hers. Women 
knew a <^reat deal more about these thinofs 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 73 

than men. Besides, they had such a 
wonderful way of twisting chairs and 
tables about, and robbinir them of all 
their formality. No room really looked 
habitable until touched up by a feminine 
hand. Perhaps Dot might like to have a 
new carpet. The present one, although 
handsome, was certainly somewhat too 
crude in colouring, and too suggestive of 
Joseph's coat. A grand piano also — he 
suddenly noticed that the room contained 
only a cottage instrument of ver}^ antiquated 
appearance — she must have one naturally. 
It should be the very first present he would 
make when — when they were engaged. 

Thus resolving, the door flew open, and 
Dr. and Miss Lankester were announced. 

The blood rushed up to Bob's face as he 
went to greet his visitors, and shook the 
object of his thoughts warmly by the 
hand, feeling that she, at any rate, was 
quite an old acquaintance. 



74 A CRACK COUNTY. 

"Why, where is Mrs. Lan'kester?" he 
inquired of her husband, after they too had 
gone through the ceremony of hand- 
shaking. " You have not left her at home, 
surely ? " 

" I am sorry to say, Mr Jarrett, that 
my wife was unable to accompany us," 
replied the doctor apologetically. " The 
fact of the matter is, she is subject to very 
bad, sick headaches, and unfortunately one 
attacked her this afternoon." 

" I regret to hear that," said Bob politely, 
disappointed at Mrs. Lankester's absence, 
since he had been curious to see what 
manner of woman Dot's mother was. 

"We ought perhaps to have sent and 
let you know," continued Dr. Lankester, 
" but my wife hoped, up to the very 
last moment, that she might be able to dine 
with you to-night, and so put off sending 
until it was too late." 

" The loss is altoirether mine I feel 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 75 

certain," returned Bob in his most cordial 
manner. " But I shall hope very soon to 
have another opportunity of making Mrs. 
Lankester's acquaintance. Tell her we 
missed her much.'* 

But although he spoke so courteously, 
after the first moment he did not seem to 
mind doing without the mamma, as long 
as he had the daughter. Until now he 
had hardly trusted himself to look at Dot. 
He had felt so curiously and unaccountably 
shy, whilst his heart beat so fast that it 
seemed to him as if she must hear it. But 
when he had ensconced her in the most 
comfortable chair he could find, he 
summoned up sufficient courage to steal a 
sidelong glance at her. Hurried as it was, 
it enabled him to take in all the details. 

He could see that she was dressed in 
some sort of soft, cream-coloured material, 
made his^h to the throat, and cut in the 
simplest possible fashion. No frills, no 



76 A CKACK COUNTY. 

furbelows, no flounces. Perhaps if he had 
been entertaming a party of fine ladies, 
they might have called Dot's gown skimpy 
and old-fashioned. Certainly it displayed 
no artificial protuberance below the waist, 
or deficiency of stuff above. If it was 
skimpy it was skimpy only as regarded the 
skirt, not the body. But whatever might 
have been its defects, to Bob's mind Miss 
Lankester's gown suited the wearer to 
perfection. 

The clinfTinfT muslin outlined her slii^ht 
form admirably, displaying its rounded 
curves to far better advantage than the 
costliest silk or satin. Above the soft, 
creamy folds rose her slender throat, and 
shapely, well-poised head, whose stag-like 
carriage was full of urace and beaut v, and 
constituted one of her chief attractions. 

There was no doubt about it, she was 
very pretty — prettier even than he had 
believed her to be ; whilst the singularly 



LEFT IN THE LUECH. 77 

honest expression of her face rendered it 
to him, at least, peculiarly fascinating. 
Then he looked critically at her father 
standing within a few feet of him. Doctor 
Lankester was a handsome man. It was 
easy to see from whom his daughter 
had inherited her good looks. He had the 
same straight, delicate features, the same 
colouring, and clear, grey eyes, with large 
dark pupils, which in some lights appeared 
almost black. Like Dot, he was short 
rather than tall, but slender and perfectly 
proportioned. 

" Well, and what have you been doing 
with yourself to-day, Mr. Jarrett ? " Dr. 
Lankester asked of his host, as soon as the 
first bustle of their arrival had subsided. 
" I suppose you did not go out hunting. 
The meet was a long way off." 

" It was," answered Bob. *' And there- 
fore I profited by the opportunity to take 
a run up to town." 



78 A CKACK COUNTY. 

" Indeed ! And how was town looking ? " 

" Simply filthy. When I left here about 
half-past eight o'clock this morning it was 
the most lovely day imaginable — a bright 
sun and a blue sky — but as we neared 
London a dense curtain of io^ arose, 
which grew thicker and thicker every 
moment. As for the atmosphere, it was 
laden with smuts, dirt, and every kind of 
abomination, which got into my eyes, 
down my throat, and up my nostrils. I 
never was more thankful in my life than 
to get back to fresh country air that did 
not poison one's lungs. Phew ! I can feel 
it now." 

" And yet people who live in London 
don't seem to mind the fo^s one bit," 
remarked Dot. 

"I suppose tlie}^ get accustomed to 
them," returned Bob. " But it would 
take me a very long time to become 
acclimatized." And as he spoke he beiran 



LEFT IN THE LUEGH. 79 

to cough, the impure air to which he was 
not habituated having evidently irritated 
his throat to a considerable degree. 

Dot looked up. 

" Have you got a cold, Mr. Jarrett ? " 
she asked with concern. 

" Yes, I believe I have managed to catch 
a slight one. Somehow or other I have 
felt shivery ever since yesterday's wetting." 

" Then you should take care of your- 
self," said Dr. Lankester in a kindly, but 
semi-professional manner. 

"Too much bother," answered Bob 
lightly, with all a strong young man's 
disdain of coddling. " I never think any- 
thing of a cold. Besides, it's really 
nothinc^. Not worth talkinc^ about." 

But as he said the words, he coughed 
again, and this time worse than before. 

Doctor Lankester glanced at him, and 
saw that he was flushed, and showed every 
symptom of having contracted a chill. 



80 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Very likely not," lie said quietly. 
" But you must remember, Mr. Jarrett, that 
you are not used to our English climate. 
It is a very treacherous one, I assure you, 
and few people can afford to take liberties 
with it. The winters are often extremely 
severe, especially of late years, when in 
some parts of the country the thermometer 
has registered as many as twenty degrees of 
frost." 

The conversation was here interrupted 
by the entrance of the butler, who 
announced that dinner was ready. No 
Englishman is ever indifferent to this 
acceptable summons, and Dr. Lankester at 
once ceased talking, and waited politely for 
his host to make a move. 

Bob gave his arm to Dot, regretting that 
he had been unable to provide an agree- 
able, elderly lady for her father. 

" It is so good of you to come in this 
sort of way," he said apologetically. "I 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 81 

wish I could have asked some people to 
meet you, but the fact of the matter is, I 
don't know anybody yet." 

" I'm very glad you didn't," answered 
Dot with characteristic frankness. " My 
father and I will enjoy a quiet evening 
alone with you ever so much more. You 
see," she added brightly, " we look upon 
you as a novelty. You can tell us all kind 
of things we know little or nothing of, 
whereas Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones — dear, 
excellent people as they may be — only 
prattle away about their domestic concerns 
with which we are already thoroughly 
conversant/' 

Bob laughed. 

" I'm so awfully afraid you'll find it 
dull," he said. 

" Dull ! " looking up at him with 

sparkling eyes. " That is paying yourself 

an exceedingly bad compliment, Mr. Jarrett. 

As for me, I am a pretty good hand at 

VOL. II. 22 



82 A CRACK COUNTY. 

amusing myself. There is a great deal of 
enjoyment to be got out of life, if only one 
has a sense of the ridiculous and cultivates 
the faculty of applying it to everyday 
trifles. Besides, you forget that a visit to 
Strainhtem Court is quite an event in our 
humble experience." 

" Why ? Did you not come here often 
in Captain Straightem's time ? " 

" Often ? Xo. We came exactlv once a 
year. Every spring we were invited to a 
formal luncheon at the conclusion of the 
hunting season. We invariably met our 
clergyman and his wife, whom as you may 
imagine we see frequently, and the county 
solicitor and his married daughter. This 
lunch was evidently a duty ailliir. It could 
not possibly be mistaken for anything else. 
The conversation was lame and forced on 
both sides. We asked after the sport and 
the hounds, our host after our individual 
health, and how we had got through the 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 83 

winter. After these civilities had been 
exchanged, we fell back upon eating and 
drinking. As for poor Captain Straightem, 
it was impossible to help pitying him. He 
looked so superlatively miserable, and so 
infinitely bored. Altogether, the relief 
was immense when the festivity came to an 
end, and the strain was over. But," she 
concluded, pulling up short, " I ought not 
to talk in this sort of wav, now that 
Captain Straightem is dead and gone." 

" I am surprised at what you tell me," 
said Bob, who had listened attentively 
to his companion's observations. "I can't 
imagine how my uncle could have lived so 
near to you without getting to be on very 
friendly terms." 

For his part, he felt convinced that if he 
were to see Miss Dot only a few times more, 
his feelings would inevitably become some- 
thing even warmer than friendly. He was 
irresistibly drawn towards her. 



84 A CRACK COUXTV. 

"You don't seem to know mucli of 
Captain Straiglitem," said the young lady 
seriously. "If you did, you could not 
fancy him capable of being on what you 
call ' friendly terms ' with people in our 
lowly position." 

" What was he like ? " asked Bob with 
considerable curiosity. 

" He was a very gentlemanly man," she 
replied. "Exceedingly quiet and reserved 
in his manner, and always remarkably 
neatly dressed. Further than that, I can 
tell you nothing, except that somehow or 
other he invariabl}^ contrived to make you 
feel that he looked upon you as an 
inferior." 

" By Jove ! " exclaimed Bob, "but that's 
exactly the way some of these swells made 
me feel yesterday." 

"Did they?" said Dot. "Then I can 
sympathize with you, Mr. Jarrett, for I 
know from experience that it is by no 



LEFT IN THE LUECH. 85 

means a comfortable sensation. I do not 
mind a bit on my own account, but I do 
mind on father's. He is so clever and well- 
informed, and I can't bear to see him 
snubbed by people who have not as much 
in their whole bodies as he has in his little 
finger." 

" And does not Dr. Lankester resent such 
conduct ? " 

" No," she answered spiritedly. " I have 
to resent it for him. Father has far too 
large a mind to take notice of trifles." 

" He has a warm champion, at any rate. 
It must be very nice to have somebody to 
stick up for one," said Bob. "I only 
wish " 

But he was unable to conclude the 
sentence, for having marched down a long 
corridor, they had now reached the dining- 
room, and after seating themselves at table, 
were soon discussim? an excellent dinner. 
The meal passed very pleasantly. 



8G A CRACK COUNTY. 

Dr. Lankester was not only a good 
talker, but had the rare art of inducing 
those with whom he came in contact to 
talk also. He would start a subject, and 
when it was fairly launched through the 
shallows of polite conversation, adopt the 
role of listener. Before lonij^ Bob found 
himself describing his life in Australia, the 
soil, climate, government and a hundred 
different things, in all of which Dr. 
Lankester appeared to take an interest. 

Dot did not say much ; nevertheless, 
from the animated expression of her 
countenance, it was easy to tell that her 
silence did not proceed from stupidity, but 
rather from modesty, youth, and a highly 
receptive faculty, which rendered it a 
deliaht to sit still and listen, whilst others 
were talking sensibly. 

They lingered long over their wine. 
Dot had made a movement as if to leave 
the gentlemen to themselves, but Bob 



LEFT IN THE LUBCH. 87 

particularly requested her to remain. 
Consequently it was nearly a quarter past 
nine before they rose from the table. 

" Would you like to smoke a cigar, 
doctor ? " asked Bob, " because, if so, we 
can go into my little snuggery, provided, 
of course, that Miss Lankester does not 
object." 

" Oh ! never mind Dot," he answered 
with paternal confidence. " She is quite 
accustomed to the smell of tobacco, and 
always keeps me company over my post- 
prandial pipe." 

Upon this, the trio adjourned to a small, 
cosy apartment of which Bob had taken 
special possession, and which being one of 
the oftenest used, was about the most 
comfortable room in the house. Three 
capacious easy chairs were dragged in 
front of the fire, and herein they seated 
themselves. There was something pleasant 
and informal about this arrangement, which 



88 A CRACK COUNTY. 

the hard-working doctor, for one, highly 
preferred to the red-and-gold glories of the 
drawing room. He had had a long day, 
and thoroughly enjoyed stretching his 
weary limbs before the hearth, and 
deliberately puffing away at the fragrant 
cigar whicli Bob had just handed to him. 

They were settling down to a quiet, 
peaceful evening, when the general 
harmony was disturbed by the delivery 
of a note fur Doctor Lankester. 

lie opened it a trifle impatiently. Calm 
and easy-going as he was, the moment 
proved inopportune. " Dear me ! '' he 
exclaimed in accents of vexation, when he 
had read the letter through, springing to 
his feet as he spoke. " This is terribly 
annoying, and the worst of my profession. 
One never can be at rest for two minutes 
at a time." 

" What is the matter, father?" inquired 
Dot. 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 89 

" A summons to a bad confinement case. 
I must o'o at once. The woman's life is in 
danger. I wish to goodness people would 
give over having babies, or else that they 
would time their entry into the world at 
more convenient hours." 

Poor Doctor Lankester ! He was very, 
very tired, else he never would have spoken 
in this manner. 

"Must you really go?" asked Bob. 

" Yes, I am sorry to say I must, and that 
at once. The case is a very urgent one, 
and I should reproach myself for ever if I 
allowed my own love of comfort to prevent 
me from going to the poor creature's 
assistance." And he threw away his cigar, 
as if trying to resist temptation. 

Suddenly he remembered his daughter. 

" Dot, my girl," he said, addressing her, 
" what's to be done ? I shall have to take 
the carriage, since every minute is of im- 
portance." 



90 A CRACK COUNTY. 

"All right, father," she answered cheer- 
fully, *'I will go and get my shawl at 



once." 



" Stop a bit. Dot. You don't quite 
understand the situation. I can't possibly 
take you with me." 

" Why not, father, can you not drop me 
on the road ? " 

" No, I have to go in quite a contrary 
direction. The only plan will be for you 
to stay here until I can send the carriage 
back — that is to say, if Mr. Jarrett has no 
objection." 

Bob expressed his extreme satisfaction 
with the proposed arrangement. He liked 
Dr. Lankester uncommonly, but he liked 
his daughter better, and looked forward 
with delight to a most af^freeable icie-a'tHe, 

But the youn;]^ ladv did not altoiiiether 
appear to relish the idea. A shade of 
displeasure passed over her sunny face. 

" I think that I had better come with 



LEFT IN TEE LURCH. 91 

you, father," slie said in the same tones of 
gentle dignity Bob remembered her using 
once before. " I could wait in the car- 
riage, just as well as here." 

" JSTo," he replied. '' It would only 
fidget me to think that you were there. 
Besides, it is quite likely I may have to 
send Tomson into town, to fetch medicines 
at the dispensary, in which case you might 
never get home all night. Leave it to me, 
and I will either send the carriage back as 
soon as possible, or else order a fly." 

" I can walk back," said Dot resolutely. 
" It's no distance, and mv shoes are 
tolerably thick." 

Evidently the tete-a-tete was not to 
her mind, or else she disliked its being 
forced upon her without her giving her 
consent. 

While this discussion was going on, Bob 
stood by, feeling a perfect beast. There 
were horses enough and carriages enough 



92 A CKACK COUNTY. 

too in his stables, doinir nothin<]f at that 
very moment, but he never ofTered to 
produce them for Miss Lankester's benefit. 
The single brougham would have conveyed 
her most snugly back to her home. Yet 
he said not a word. 

The truth was, his imagination had taken 
fire at the bare thought of ^ettin^ Dot all 

O DO 

alone to himself for half an hour, or with 
good luck, perhaps even a whole one. He 
felt thoroughly ashamed of his conduct. He 
did not attempt to excuse it in any way, 
but the temptation was too strong to be 
resisted, and he maintained an obstinate 
silence. Even when once the ijirl looked 
appealingly at him, he made no ofTer of 
lending a vehicle. Dot, on her side, 
though she knew quite well that there 
were any number in the coachhouse, was 
far too proud to beg for the loan of one. 
Onl}^ for the first time, she experienced a 
kind of hostility against her host. He might 



LEFT IN THE LURCH. 93 

have helped her out of her difficulty, and 
he had refused to do so. 

" Well," said Dr. Lankester, giving him- 
self a stretch, "there's no peace for the 
wicked, and I must be off. Good night, 
Jarrett. Thanks for your hospitality." 

" And am I really to stay here, father ? " 
asked poor Dot in consternation. 

"Yes, child. I thought we had settled 
all that. I will send the carriage back if 
I can, but if it is not here by half -past ten, 
and I am unable to get a fly, I have no 
doubt that Mr. Jarrett will kindly let 
one of his men-servants see you safely 
home." 

" I will see her home myself," said Bob 
effusively, suddenly finding his tongue, now 
that matters were definitely arranged 
accordinof to his desires. 

" All right, then ; I leave her in your 
hands." And so saying Dr. Lankester 
hurried off, leaving his daughter a prey 



94 A CKACK COUNTY. 

to a whole host of curiously mixed sen- 
sations. 

In many ways the village doctor was a 
strangely simple and unworldly man. 
Despite his forty odd years, it apparently 
never entered his head to think that there 
was anything the least unusual in letting 
Dot remain by herself, at a tolerably late 
hour of niL,dit, in the house of a younfr 
bachelor acquaintance who, most ordinary 
people would have perceived, admired her 
immensely. 

He would have been astounded if anvone 
had suuirested such a tliinc^. 

But Dot's perceptions were sharper. 

Her maidenlv instincts rebelled against 
the situation. 

She knew the innocence and simplicity 
of her father's nature, but for once she 
wished that he possessed a little more of 
that worldly cunning of which her mother 
owned so large a share. 



LEFT IN THE LUKCH. 95 

She liked Mr. Jarrett very much. He 
was very kind, very nice, very polite. But 
every now and then she had felt his eyes 
fixed upon her in an embarrassing manner, 
and once when she looked up, and hap- 
pened to intercept their gaze, there was 
a look in them which troubled her not a 
little. 

She could not understand it, and Dot 
Lankester was a voun^j woman who did 
not care for things she did not understand. 






CHAPTER y. 

« 

AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT." 

Bob saw Dr. Lankester out at the hall 
door as in courtesy bound ; and for a 
minute or two Dot was left to her own 
resources. During this time she took 
herself seriously to task for her disin- 
clination to be left alone with Mr. Jarrett. 
It really was ridiculous to mind, and it 
would be doubly, trebly absurd to allow 
him to guess that she experienced any 
reluctance. She had already stated her 
wish to accompany her father, but since he 
had decided otherwise, the best plan now 
was to try and appear totally unconcerned, 
and altogether at her ease. Even delicacy 
might be carried to too great an extent. 



AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT."' 97 

Luckily her conscience was free. The 
situation had been none of her choosing, 
and undoubtedly the wisest course was to 
attach as little importance to it as possible. 
In this manner did she argue, endeavouring, 
by the aid of common sense and calm 
reasonincf, to make lii^ht of the whole 
business. She succeeded so far that by the 
time Bob re-entered the room she contrived 
to smother the temporary resentment she 
had felt against him, and to all appearances 
was quiet, indifferent and self-possessed. 
But she did not attempt to commence the 
conversation, and for a few seconds a 
somewhat awkward silence prevailed. If 
Dot's conscience was at rest, Bob's was far 
from being so. He could not divest him- 
self of an inward conviction that he had 
behaved traitorously towards his guest. 
Moreover he entertained an uncomfortable 
belief that she shared the same opinion, 
and in her inmost mind criticized his 
VOL, II. 23 



U8 A CRACK COUNTY. 

conduct severely. Well, he must try and 
make up for past misdemeanours, and do 
all he could to regain her esteem. 

Dot had risen from her seat, and was 
now standin<]f leaning? witli one arm a^^ainst 

DO O 

the mantelpiece, in a pose full of un- 
conscious grace. The bright flames from 
the fire cast flickerini2f shadows on her 
light dress and grave, downcast face. They 
lit up her soft brown tresses with gleams 
of gold, and made the small head and 
slender pillar-like throat stand out in high 
relief against the dark oak panelling. 

A thrill went through Bob's frame as he 

I— 

looked at her. She had no positive claim to 
beauty, but her air of quiet refinement, 
her youth, lier freshness, her total freedom 
from coquetry, rendered her in his eyes 
the most attractive woman he had ever 
come across. He admired her immensely, 
and yet he feared her a little. He doubted 
the reception his advances might meet with. 



AN OFFER OF A " MOUNT." 99 

Slie inspired an unusual sense of self- 
distrust and timidity. Tlierefore lie re- 
solved to be more than commonly prudent, 
to guard against any hasty impulse carry- 
ing him away, and above all, to do and 
say nothing that might directly or indirectly 
give the alarm to her maidenly suscepti- 
bilities. Miss Lankester and Lady De 
JFochsey were evidently two very different 
types of womanhood. The same plan of 
procedure could not be indiscriminately 
adopted with them both. 

At last the silence grew so prolonged that 
Bob was constrained to break it. 

" Will you not sit down. Miss Lankester ?'' 
he said in studiously correct tones. " You 
will a:et tired of standiniy." And he drew 
the chair she had already occupied a trifle 
nearer. 

It must be owned that Dot did not 
receive this suggestion very graciously. 
Before replying she glanced at the clock ; 

23* 



100 A CRACK COUNTY. 

then, with a suppressed sigh of impatience, 
answered : 

'' Yes, I suppose I may as well. The 
carriage can't possibly be here just yet." 

Bob felt nettled by the remark. It 
implied a desire to escape at the very 
earliest opportunity. 

" You seem in a most tremendous hurry 
to get away," he said with considerable 
asperity. " I am sorry that you should be 
so awfully bored." 

Dot bhished up to the very roots of her 
hair. 

" Oh ! no indeed," she said lamely, " I'm 
not the least bit bored." 

" Are vou'not ? Then all I can sav is, 
your manner belies your words. Is there 
nothing I can [do to amuse you ? Don't 
you even care to look at books or photo- 
graphs, since you appear disinclined to 
talk ? " 

" I don't want amusing, ]\Ir. Jarrett. 



AX OFFEPt OF A "MOUiNT." 101 

You labour under a mistake in fancying 
that I do." 

" So you said before. But from personal 
observation I am rude enough to disbelieve 
the statement. If you were contented 
where you are, you would not count the 
minutes quite so anxiously." 

" You seem to forget," rejoined Dot, 
with an attempt at archness, " that we 
country people are^early birds, who become 
sleepy and stupid unless we go to roost at 
our accustomed hour." 

" Am] I .to understand, then, that you 
retire to rest at half-past nine every day of 
your life ? " 

" Well, no, not perhaps quite so early." 

" You are tired on this particular even- 
ing ? Is that it?" 

" No, not at all." 

" Not bored, not tired !," said Bob 
musingly. " Then I can only arrive at one 
solution." 



102 A CRACK COU^TY. 

He waited for a moment, as if hoping 
his companion would inquire what it was, 
but as she did not speak, he went on 
more impetuously : " The fact of the matter 
is, Miss Lankester, you still persist in 
treatincf me like a stranger, from whom all 
manner of evil is to be expected. Do you 
imagine I am going to eat you ? " And he 
turned a pair of very reproachful eyes upon 
her, whose injured expression seemed to 
render her shortcomings painfully apparent. 

She gave a forced laugh, and blamed 
herself for having been so ridiculously 
prudish. 

" No. I do not Hatter mvself that I 
should prove a very palatable morsel ; and 
as for bc4n<]^ a stram:][er — were vou not one 
only quite a short while ago ? " 

" Yes. It is kind of you to remind me 
of the fact," he answered stifllv, " though I 
was in no danirer of fonzettini? it." Then, 
determined not to quarrel with her, he 



AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT." 103 

added in a gentler key : " It was my fault, 
of course, but somehow or other when you 
were so good as to help me through my gate 
difficulty, I was foolish enough to imagine 
that you were a little more human and 
not quite so ceremonious as the rest of 
them." 

This time Dot lauo^hed outri^xht. His 
remarks were extremely naive, and made 
her begin to wonder why she had distrusted 
him. 

" Come, Mr. Jarrett, confess. Do I look 
very ceremonious at the present moment ? " 
lying back in the arm-chair with a gesture 
of abandonment, and resting her small 
brown head against the cushions, whilst 
her eyes shone with fun and mischief. 

Both the words and the attitude pleased 
him, and took away his sense of soreness. 

" No, I can't say that you do. But you 
did a little while ago, when you were in 



two minds about sitting down. 



}> 



104 A CEACK COUNTY. 

" And ("!o you really think me as bad as 
the ' rest of them ' ? " mimicking his 
aggrieved tones. 

" I shan't reply to that question, for fear 
my answer might offend you," responded 
Bob, his face beaming with delight, this 
sudden transition to a playful mood making 
the blood course like wildfire through his 
veins. Then, with a strong effort he 
controlled the desire to tell her his exact 
thoughts, and said hesitatingly : 

" Of course you know very little about 
me at present. Miss Dot — I beg pardon, 
I mean Miss Lankester — but — but," 
beginning to flounder in his speech, " 1 
should like to set your mind at rest in one 
particular." 

" What is that, Mr. Jarrett ? I was not 
aware my mind was uneasy." 

" Yes, it is. Excuse me for contradictinir 
you so flatly, but I can see it quite plainly. 
The real truth is, you are afraid of me, and 



AN OFFEE OF A '-MOUNT." 105 

— and," turning very red, " upon my soul 
you need not be." 

The blusli on her companion's face repro- 
duced itself on Dot's. 

" I'm not afraid of you — not a bit," she 
vowed more emphatically than truthfully, 
for she felt humiliated by Bob's declaration, 
and by the keenness of his perceptions. 

" Oh ! I thought you were." 

She plucked up sufficient courage to ask, 
" Why ? " 

" Because you showed so very plainly 
your dislike to being left alone in my 
society." 

He had been piqued by her conduct, and 
man-like could not conceal his pique as a 
woman would have done. It might not be 
wise to speak out thus freely on so short an 
acquaintance, but for the life of him, he 
could not hold his tongue. 

Dot, however, felt too guilty to attempt 
to deny the accusation. She only mar- 



106 A CRACK COUKTY. 

veiled at his powers of penetration, having 
hitherto flattered herself that she had 
managed to disguise her sentiments pretty 
well. Either she must have acted her part 
very badh% or Mr. Jarrett must be a good 
deal sharper than most gentlemen. 

Fortunately for Dot, Bob having secretly 
enjoyed the confusion depicted upon her 
countenance, was generous enough to start 
the conversation afresh, and this time in a 
different channel. He had no intention of 
pressing her too sorely. His object had 
merely been to let her see he was not 
wholly devoid of observation. She was a 
bad dissembler, and in his heart of hearts 
he liked her all the better for it. A girl 
who could tell stories readily, must have a 
flaw somewhere in her composition. 

" Don't you ever go out hunting, Miss 
Lankester ? " he inquired. 

In a second. Dot's whole manner 
changed. A wonderful thaw set in. All 



AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT." 107 

the coldness and the frigidity vanished as 
if by magic. They were on safe ground at 
last, and she was her own, natural self 
again. The need of defence, which con- 
stitutes a maiden's armour, departed. 

" Oh ! yes, sometimes," she answered 
vivaciously. " But not very often, I'm 
sorry to say." 

" How's that ? " 

" Father won't allow me to go alone, and 
it is only on very rare occasions that he 
can steal a holiday." 

" Is Dr. Lankester fond of the sport ? " 

" He loves it, when he gets the chance. 
Do you know," and Dot lowered her voice 
confidentially, " nobody goes better than 
father, when he happens to be mounted on 
a decent horse, which, however, is not 
often. Every one declares what a won- 
derful eye he has got for a country, and 
how marvellously quick he is in following 
hounds." 



103 A CRACK COUMY. 

" And do YOU ^^o where he does r " 
inquired Bob with interest, though he did 
not like the idea of Dot's dehcate frame 
being exposed to danger. 

" I used to always," she answered 
proudly. " But," stifling a sigh, " the last 
year or two poor Mouse has failed sadly. 
She is very old and has quite lost her 
speed." 

" Why don't you get another horse, then ?" 
asked Bob somewhat inconsiderately. 

She looked at him. Even the sharpest 
men were curiously dense in some ways. 

" For the very simple reason, Mr. Jarrett, 
that my father is, comparatively speaking, 
a poor man, and we cannot afford to 
indulge in many expensive amusements. 
If we could, we should both go out 
hunting a very great deal more frequently 
than we do." 

" In short," said Bob, '' you have nothing 
to ride but Mouse." 



AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT." 109 

" No, nothing, but I am very lucky to 
have her, and it is only when hounds 
happen to run really hard, and I hear her 
poor heart go pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, under 
me, and have the mortification of seeing 
ever3^body pass me by, that I can't help 
feeling annoyed, and envying people who 
are better mounted than myself. It is so 
delightful to be on a good horse," she con- 
tinued enthusiastically, " and not always to 
have to think of cutting off corners, and 
easing up hills, and walking through 
ploughs. Besides, nothing puts one off 
one's riding more, than following some 
cunning old hand, who knows every gate 
in the country, and who pulls up at each 
gap in turn, to inquire of the multitude 
what sort of a place it is, and then either 
gallops swiftly away, or takes ten minutes 
making up his mind whether he will or 
will not, accordinir to the nature of the 
answers received. It ruins a person's nerve." 



no A CRACK COUNTY. 

" I should dearly like to lend you one of 
my horses," said Bob eagerly. " There are 
ever so many more in the stables than I 
want for my own use, and I feel sure two 
or three of them would carry a lady to 
perfection." 

Dot's face brio^htened at the mere sui<- 
gestion. She was passionately fond of 
fox-hunting, and of everything connected 
therewith. Her love of sport was genuine, 
and inherited from her father, who came 
of a good horse-racing Yorkshire family. 
Bob could not possibly have held out a 
greater temptation. Xevertheless, she had 
many scruples as to accepting the offer so 
generously made. To begin with, it would 
place her under an obligation. 

" You are very kind, Mr. Jarrett," she 
said gratefully. " More than kind, indeed, 
to hint at such a thing ; but I do not think 
my father would allow me to ride any one 
else's horses. There is always a certain 



AN OFFER OF A '-MOUNT." Ill 

amount of risk about tlie proceeding, and 
if there was a 2:ood scent, and I crot warmed 
up, I could not help ' going ' and doing my 
very best to keep with hounds." 

" I'll take all the risk," he answered. 
" Come," persuasively, " what do you say ? 
If I can succeed in overcoming^ Dr. Lankes- 
ter's objections, will you grant me this 
small favour — for it is one, I assure you — 
and let me have the pleasure of mounting 
you now and again ? " 

Dot hesitated before replying. It was 
awfully nice of him, he was quite restored 
to her good graces, but — ought she to 
yield to the temptation however great it 
might be, and was ? What was the use of 
her cultivating^ her taste for huntincf, when 
the circumstances of her life were such 
that in all probability she would have very 
little opportunity of gratifying it hereafter. 
And then Dot's imagination wandered far 
away. 



112 A CIIACK COUNTY. 

" Well, wliat do you say ? " Bob asked 
anrain. " Can't you make up your mind ? '* 

She looked liira straight in the face with 
clear and kindly eyes. She was touched 
by the sincerity of his offer. 

" I don't know what to say, Mr. Jarrett, 
except to thank you for your most generous 
proposition." 

" But that is no answer, Miss Lankester. 
None whatever." 

" It is the only one I can give at the 
present moment." 

" May I speak to your father ? Have I 
your permission ? " 

" I — I — think vou had better not." And 
she began twisting her pocket-handkerchief 
about. 

But in spite of these words, Bob could 
see by her manner that she was yielding. 
If he pressed the point only a little more 
he would overrule her objections ; and 
then — what cross-country delights, what 



AN OFFER OF A "MOUNT." 113 

feats performed together, what long, 
delicious rides home in the frosty twilight ! 
His pulses thrilled at the mere thought of 
them. There would no longer be any 
question of scheming to obtain a miserable 
half-hour of her society. And when she 
was pleased and amused, and owed her 
pleasure and amusement to him, perhaps 
she mio'ht orpow to care for him a little bit. 



q^" Tc^-^Mi'i—Q) -4—* 



VOL. II. 



24 



CHAPTEK VI. 

BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 

Can even the best of men help their 
thoughts being selfish, especially when 
their passions are aroused ? It is question- 
able. At all events, there was a leaven of 
self-interest in those that instantaneously 
rose to Bob's mind. He could not refrain 
from realizing that in benefiting Dot, he 
would benefit himself a hundred thousand 
times more. Consequently he grew in- 
creasingly urgent. 

"I shall attack your father the very next 
time I see him," he said decidedly. " It's a 
downright shame for you not to have a 
good horse when you ride so well, and are 
so fond of hunting." 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 115 

His energy and determination quite 
carried Dot away. She felt as if it were 
almost impossible to resist them, when 
directly subjected to their influence ; for 
there are qualities which, when displayed 
by one of the opposite sex, possess a 
strange power of subjugating a woman, 
even against her better judgment. She 
likes to find all her objections answered, 
all her scruples overruled just now and 
again. It makes her say to herself ; 
" Well ! I have done a foolish thing, but 
it really was not my fault. I had no 
choice left me." 

So instead of sticking to her colours, Dot 
deserted them basely, and said with a faint 
smile, for she was conscious of her weak- 
ness, and condemned it : 

" I am afraid that if I let you have your 
way, you will spoil me altogether, Mr. 
Jarrett." 

" Spoil you! " he ejaculated. "By jingo! 

24* 



116 A CRACK COUNTY. 

I only wish I had the chance. Should you 
object to being spoilt by me, Miss 
Lankester ? " 

The question slipped out almost bofore 
he was aware of it, and then he could have 
bitten off the tip of his tongue, in his fear 
of having gone too far. 

It was almost a relief, and yet — wilh the 
contrariety of masculine nature, he could 
not help feeling vexed as well, to find no 
reply forthcoming. Indeed, Dot appeared 
not to have heard the interrogation. Her 
face assumed an anxious, listening: ex- 
pression. 

"Hark," she said, ^' is not that the sound 
of wheels ? '' 

" No, I don't hear anything," rejoined 
Bob shortly, wishing the expected con- 
veyance at the bottom of the sea. 

" I am almost sure it was the carria<]^e," 
she said uneasily. 

" Oh ! never mind if it is. It is so 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 117 

jolly sitting here talking, and there's no 
hurry." 

She began moving restlessly about the 
room. Presently she said, unable to control 
her impatience any longer ; 

" Mr. Jar ret t, I feel certain the carriage 
is here. Would you mind rinoino; the bell 
and askincf ? " 

It was impossible to refuse so direct a 
request. Bob reluctantly did her bidding, 
and when the man-servant appeared, it 
seemed that Dot's ears had played her 
false. No vehicle had arrived. 

" Are you sure ? " she asked in- 
credulously. 

" Yes, miss, quite sure. I looked out of 

the 'all door myself just 'afore I came up." 

"It's very odd," she said, rising to her 

feet as soon as Charles had withdrawn. 

" Something must have happened, or else 



father has forgotten all about me. 



)> 



" That's not the least likely," said Bob. 



118 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Daughters can't be ignored altogether so 
easily." 

*' Well, anyhow, I must be going.*' 

He felt provoked by her persistence. It 
showed him plainly that he had not 
succeeded in settinc^ her at ease. 

" Without exception," he exclaimed, half 
in jest, half in earnest, "you are the most 
fidgety and tenacious person I ever 
encountered." 

" Thank you," she replied, dropping him 
a mock courtesy. " Anything else ? "' 

" May I ask, Miss Lankester, how you 



intend to get home ? 



j> 



She walked across the room, and draw- 
ing the curtains a little aside, looked out of 
the window. Just at first she could 
distinguish nothing, but after a few 
seconds she saw the stars shinino- ^vith 
frost}^ radiance, and a big white moon 
illumining all the heavens with her cold 
and mystic rays. It might be a bit chilly 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OE HIS OPPOETUNITY. ll'J 

out of doors, but at any rate there was no 
fear of rain. The night was calm and 
still, the lawn already whitening over with 
silvery hoar frost. Her resolution was 
taken without delay. There could be no 
reason why she should wait any longer. 

" 1 shall walk." 

" By Jove ! No, that you shan't," he 
protested. 

" Who is to prevent me ? " a spirit of 
opposition rising within her breast. 

" I will. If you are really in earnest 
about going, my brougham is of course at 
your disposal." 

" Thank you very much," she rejoined, 
in tones which he could not help fancying 
conveyed a touch of reproach, " but it is 
too late — now." 

Without doubt, there was an emphasis on 
the last word. The blood flew to his face. 

" Spare me," he cried, with impetuous 
self-accusation. " I know quite well what 



120 A CRACK COUMY. 

a beast I have been, and that 1 ought to 
have ordered out the brougham ever so 
lon^ a<]jo." 

" There was no law to render the action 
obligator}^" said Dot coldly. 

" Perhaps not, but I knew that you did 
not like being left here, and wanted to get 
away." 

" You need not blame yourself, Mr. 
Jarrett. I stayed by my father's wish." 

" Yes, but I did all I could to keep you. 
There ! now the murder is out." And Bob 
gazed penitently at her. " Had I chosen, 
I might have helped you out of your 
difficulty in a second." 

No doubt he had his faults, but he was 
a good fellow, and honest to the core. She 
could not feel angry with him for long, 
especially when he looked so contrite for 
what, after all, was only a small oflence. 
Besides, it was making a mountain out of a 
mole -hill. 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE Oi^' HIS OPPORTUNITY. 121 

" It seems to me," slie said pleasantly, 
" that if you have failed as a host, I have 
failed as a guest, so we may as well cry 
quits, and make our peace. Good-bye, Mr. 
Jarrett." And she held out her hand. 

" You are not going to walk home, 
surely ? " he said. 

" Yes, I am. It is only a step, and 
nobody will run away with me." 

" I can't possibly let you go like this," 
he expostulated in genuine distress. " Do 
wait a little longer." 

" Out of the question. It has already 
struck half-past ten, and mother will be 
wonderino; what has become of us. She 
does not know that father may have to 
spend the night away from home." 

Bob admitted the force of this objection, 
and accompanied his companion down the 
corridor that led to the hall. As he passed 
a hat-stand he seized his hat. 

" What is that for ? " asked Dot. 



122 A CKACK COU^'TY. 

*' To put on my head. I am coming 
with you." 

" Oh, no, indeed, Mr. Jarrett ! I can't 
allow you to do any such thing. You have 
been to London to-day and are certainly 
tired, and have a bad cold into the 
bargain." 

" Excuse me, Miss Lankester, but you 
must let me have my own way in this. I 
have failed in my duty as a host once — you 
yourself have just said so — and I hope it 
may be a long time before I make a similar 
mistake." 

Dot was in consternation. To use a 
vulgar simile, she felt that she had only 
jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire. 
And yet there was an air of decision about 
Bob which efTectually prevented her from 
indul^ini]f in anv further remonstrances. It 
was quite clear that whether she a[)proved, 
or whether she didn't, he intended to abide 
by his decision. She liked him, too, in this 



. B0J3 MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 123 

authoritative mood. The manhness of his 
nature came out. 

She actually let him wrap her up in one 
of his great- coats, and stood quite meekly 
while he buttoned the buttons. He was 
awfully slow about it, but she did not 
attempt to hasten his movements. For the 
time being he had gained a certain mastery 
over her. 

But when he handed her a warm shooting- 
cap, and insisted upon her putting it on, 
she once more found her tongue. He was 
so portentously serious that she felt bound 
to make light of the situation. 

" I declare," she said, looking saucily up 
at him from under the projecting peak of 
her head-gear, " you have turned me into 
a regular man. How do I look ? Like a 
masher ? " 

'' Look ! " he echoed, his head going 
from him all of a sudden, " as you always 
dc — oharming." 



124 A CRACK COU>'TY. 

She turned her head away, and said 
petulantly : 

" For goodness sake, Mr. Jarrett, don't 
treat me like a fashionable young lady, to 
whom compliments are as the salt of ex- 
istence. I hate them — nasty, insincere 
things." 

" But they are not always insincere," 
responded Bob in self-defence. 

" In that case, they are superfluous. And 
now shall we make a start ? " 

Bob's spirits felt thoroughly damped. 
He did not offer to make any reply to this 
speech. One thing was clear: Dot Lan- 
kester wholly difl'ered from the majority of 
her sex. She was not to be approached 
through her vanity. A strange girl this, 
w^ho grew positively angry when men pro- 
fessed to admire her, but how charming a 
one to the lucky fellow whose admiration 
she might deign to receive. Bob wondered 
if the " lucky fellow " existed, and grew 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS PPORTUNITY. 125 

miserable at tlie mere thouc^lit. Then he 
comforted himself by argaing that she was 
so young. She did not look a day over 
eighteen, and it was not likely in this quiet 
country village that anybody had already 
snapped her up. Besides, she did not seem 
like a girl given to matrimony, but very 
much the reverse. He should not take his 
rebuffs quite so deeply to heart if he could 
but make sure there were no rivals in the 
field. The very idea of some great, hairy 
man (other than himself) having the right 
to put his arm round Dot's waist, and kiss 
her little, flower-like face, filled him with 
anofer and diso^ust. An Australian micrht 
possibly be worth}^ of her, but an English- 
man — never ! 

Meanwhile they walked down the drive 
in absolute silence. 

The spreading trees with bare, black 
twigs formed a canopy over their heads, 
throua'h whose interstices shone the dark- 



126 A CRACK COUNTY. 

ling sky, deep indigo in hue ; whilst the 
cold stars glittered like diamond facets, 
and the big moon cast sharp shadows on 
the path, which made the white road even 
whiter, when contrasted with their sombre 
outlines. 

Night, with its still serenity, had hushed 
mother earth to sleep, and the stars and 
moon and the pure vaulted sky guarded 
the weary dame's slumbers. Peace de- 
scended with the mystic frost, that touched 
the trees with ghostly fingers and fantasti- 
cally laid on ever}^ blade of grass a hoary 
rime which would have done credit to a 
fairy's web. 

Peace, and silence, and solemnity — these 
were the characteristics of the liour, and 
yet Bob's poor, passionate heart, that joy 
or curse of human beings, beat with 
tumultuous beats. Scarce could he stifle 
his emotion. The calm of his surround- 
im^s failed to quiet it. For — and a 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 127 

great yearning flooded his being at the 
thought — he was so near to her and yet 
SO far ! 

So near — that if he stretched out his 
hand, he could have taken hers in his ; so 
far — that in giving the slightest expression 
to his sentiments, he at once raised up a 
barrier between them. Once as they 
walked along, she stumbled over some 
fallen stone which lay in the road, and he 
offered her his arm. Oh ! how he lonsfed 
for her to take it — to feel her little wrist 
quivering upon his sleeve. 

He dared not speak, he only shot one 
mute glance of appeal from his veiled and 
troubled eyes. 

She refused the proffered member with a 
stately gesture of the head. 

Bob literally trembled as he walked by 
her side. It was ridiculous. He had 
never been afraid of any one in his life 
before. There were some who even 



128 A CRACK COU^'TY. 

accused liim of beintr an audacious flirt, 
and yet this little slip of a girl, who was 
hardly more than a child, rendered him as 
timid and as hesitating as a hare just 
startled from its form. If this was love, 
surely he had taken the epidemic in a very 
disagreeable form ; and if it were not love, 
what else could it be ? 

They continued down the avenue, until 
they passed through the iron gates which 
separated the Park from the village. 
Emerging from the shadow of the trees 
a flood of brilliant moonlio^ht ^eeted them, 
converting every homely red-brick cottage 
into a veritable work of art. 

It enveloped Dot's girlish form in one 
sheet of radiance, and lit up each feature 
of her expressive young face. Her com- 
panion's attention was arrested by its rapt 
and dreamy look. If his thoughts had 
strayed, hers had evidently wandered also, 
for she never even noticed his steed v gaze, 



BOB 3L1KES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 129 

or heard the sigh with which, at last, 
he forced himself to withdraw his eyes. 

The influences of night prevailed. A 
spell descended upon them both, though 
it worked differently. He thought only of 
her. She ? — Ah ! who can travel the paths 
along which a maiden's fancies meander ? 

Soon they stood under the rustic porch 
of Dr. Lankester's house. 

Then Dot woke up from her dream, and 
gave a long, soft sigh. 

"Is anything the matter?" said Bob 
anxiously. " Are you cold ? ' 

" Not a bit, thank you. I can't tell you 
how I have enjoyed the walk home.*' 

" I'm glad to hear it," he answered, 
feeling flattered even in spite of the con- 
viction that her enjoyment was not atti'i- 
butable to him. 

"It has been such a lovely evening, 
and — "lowering her voice, 'I was think- 
ing— 



5) 



VOL. 11. 25 



130 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Of whom ? He burned to ask the 
question, but did not dare. 

She gave herself a little shake as if to 
shake her spirit free of some enchantment. 

" It is too late to ask you in," she said, 
" but I hope you will come another time." 

"You have only to give the invitation 
for me to accept it. Miss Lankester." 

Then, as they were on the point of 
parting, her conscience smote her for 
having behaved a trifle ungraciously to 
him. If only he could be brought to 
understand, all would go well ; but she 
could not offer her undivided friendship 
until that point had been reached. In the 
meantime she was sorry to have rendered 
his eveninsf less ac^reeable than he had 
anticipated. 

She guessed this to be the case from his 
altered and downcast manner. 

" Good night, Mr. Jarrett," she said 
frankly. "I am afraid I have proved a 



BOB MAKES A BAD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 131 

very bad companion. Will you forgive me 
all my misdemeanours ? " 

His lace brightened instantaneously. 
The demand was put with such an air of 
pretty penitence. 

" You have not got any shortcomings for 
me to forgive." 

'• Under the circumstances, you are very 
indulgent," she answered with a smile. 

That smile was fatal. It made him 
forcret all his c^ood resolutions. The blood 
rushed up to his boyish face, and he said 
impulsively : 

" It is pleasure enough for me to be 
near you, even when you don't care to talk. 
I should never ask for more." 

And then he was frif^htened — fris^htened 
at the effect his words would produce. Do 
not laugh at him. The truest wooers are 
often the most bashful. 

Moonbeam after moonbeam poured into 
the porch, as they stood waiting for the 



25* 



132 A CRACK COUNTY. 

door to be opened. By their liglit he 

could see her eyes narrow, the delicate 

brow contract, and the whole expression 

of her face change. He cursed his own 

iniDrudence. 

" Mr. Jarrett," she said in a constrained 

voice, " you expressed a wish that you and 

I should be friends. Please understand 

distinctly that I cannot undertake to 

remain so unless you give up the habit 

of making flowery speeches on every 

possible and impossible occasion." 

" I — I'm awfully sorry," muttered Bob 
in abject confusion, wringing her hand in 
a vice-like grasp. " Good-bye, I won't do 
it again, and — and — I shan't forget about 
the horse," striding hastily awa3\ 

The horse ? Did he think he could 
bribe her with that? 

" Mr. Jarrett," she called after him, in a 
clear voice, " wait one minute, please. I 
have something to say." 



BOB MAKES A MD USE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY. 133 

" Yes," stopping short, " what is it ? " 
" About your kind offer — I — I can't 
accept it." 

"You cant! Why not?" 
" Because I feel convinced that it would 
be better for me not to do so." 

And with this exceedingly unsatisfactory 
reply Dot vanished into the house, leaving 
Bob to trudge back to Straiojhtem Court in 
the worst of humours and the lowest 
possible spirits. 

For he saw quite clearly that the fortress 
was not to be carried by a coup de main. 

In his ardour he had imagined there 
would be no delay — his courtship would 
go smoothly. He would pay Miss Lan- 
kester a great deal of attention, to which 
she would respond in a suitable manner ; 
then propose and be accepted. That was 
how the course of true love should always 
run, and how he had mapped it out in his 
own mind. 



134 A CRACK COUIsTY. 

And now, instead of a swift impetuous 
channel, coursing madly down towards the 
smiling ocean of matrimony, he saw no- 
thing but a little devious stream, blocked 
by every kind of impediment. His ideas 
had been subjected to a very severe shock. 

He realized that Dot Lankester could 
not be " rushed " into marriage. He had 
been in far too great a hurry. Instead of 
going to work cautiously, and inspiring her 
first with confidence, then friendship, and 
finally with the desired passion, he had 
made a mess of the whole bushiess, and 
done nothing' but establish a feelins^ of 
cont^traint which would now take several 
days, if not weeks, to efiace. In short, he 
had frightened her. He knew it by the 
tone of her voice and the look of her eyes. 
And as Bob retraced his footsteps he 
blamed himself bitterly for having made 
such exceedingly bad use of the opportu- 
nity that had been granted him. 



CHAPTEE Yir. 

A SUNDAY CALL. 

Whether a hapless young man be in love 
or not the world has to go on as usual. 
He must get up of a morning, eat, drink, 
and, to a great extent, pursue his usual 
avocations. The passion which consumes 
him is sedulously hidden from the vulgar 
eye, as something too sacred for it to gaze 
upon. His sufferings are borne heroically 
and in silence. 

A promise made to a lady, even although 
that lady be not the object of your affections, 
is entitled to respect. An honourable 
gentleman feels himself bound to fulfil it, 
whether his inclinations do or do not 
approve. Having pledged his word, there 
is no cjoins^ back. 



136 A CRACK COUNTY. 

This conviction was strong upon Bob's 
mind when Sunday afternoon arrived. 
Since meeting Lady De Fochsey in the 
train she had occupied but a comparatively 
small share of his thouc^hts. Nevertheless 
he remembered his appointment. 

Consequently, he dressed himself with 
extra care, and, after eating a hearty lunch, 
set out on foot for her ladyship's house, 
whose locality he had previousl}" ascertained. 
He had gone to church that morning in the 
hope of seehig Dot, but Dot for some reason 
or other was not present, and he felt the 
sacrifice had been vain, and wondered 
feverishly when and how he should see her 
again. If only he could catch a glimpse of 
the doctor then he mii^ht arramre a dav for 
his dau":hter to c^o out huntincf ; but at 
present the future was shrouded in 
obscurity. He kept contriving all sorts of 
plans by which they might meet. Most 
successful projects in imaghiation, and yet 



A SUNDAY CALL. 137 

ones that when he came to meditate 
seriously upon putting them into operation 
seemed to contain some element which 
might possibly displease Dot, and were 
therefore promptly discarded. Four whole 
days had passed since he had seen her. It 
appeared a miracle how people could live 
so close to each other, and meet so seldom. 
And yet he had marched up and down the 
road in front of the doctor's house at least 
a dozen times. If this were to go on life 
would not be worth livins^. 

Altogether, Bob felt thoroughly disheart- 
ened. Since his immersion in the brook 
he had not been well. He could not throw 
off the chill which he had then caught, and 
although he refused to take any care of 
himself, and pooh-poohed the idea of taking 
any medical advice, a sense of ph3^sical 
discomfort added to the despondency of his 
mental condition. 

But the walk did him good. His way 



138 A CRACK COUNTY. 

led tlirougli pleasant country lanes, where 
tlie thorny bramble still retained a few red 
and yellow leaves, and where bright clusters 
of scarlet berries peeped out from the dark 
hedge-rows. A sharp frost had prevailed 
the night before. In the shade the grass 
was still covered by a silvery burden ; but 
where the wintry sun rested upon it, there 
the rime had disappeared, leaving behind a 
faint trace of moisture, which lent freshness 
to the herbage and appetite to the browsing 
cattle. As a rule the StifTshire roads are 
not celebrated for their cleanliness. The 
rain that descends lies about in miry 
puddles, and takes days to percolate tlirougli 
the heavy clay soil. But to-day there was 
no need to turn np even a trouser hem. 
They were bleached quite white and hard, 
except here and there where the sun had 
chanced to slant down upon them with 
peculiar force. The air was still and sharp ; 
the sky faintly blue, fading away to a 



A SUNDAY CALL. 139 

misty grey wliere it touched the horizon. 
Every now and again as he walked along, 
the deep lowing of cattle, or the crisp swish 
of grass torn violently from its roots, broke 
the silence. Otherwise, scarce a sound was 
to be heard. 

Before long Bob arrived at his destina- 
tion. 

Lady De Fochsey's house was well 
situated on the summit of a gentle incline. 
Though by no means large — being, in 
fact, little more than a hunting box — it 
commanded a fine panorama. Grass, grass, 
grass. That w^as what could be seen from 
its bay windows, added to three or four 
dark patches on the sky-line, which repre- 
sented well-known coverts, half a dozen 
church steeples, and as many villages ; the 
whole intersected by rows upon rows of 
fences, some big, some little, but mostly 
the former, and all crossing and re-crossing 
each other at a variety of different angles. 



140 A CRACK COU>'TY. 

A great green chess-board, somewhat 
irregularly marked out, but whereon all the 
motley crowd of players enjoyed themselves 
to the full. A country on which the fox- 
hunter's eye rested with unqualified admira- 
tion and approval, but in which the 
uninitiated could descry nothing except a 
series of big, drear}' fields, bleak and bare 
to a degree, and destitute of all beauty, 
save that of space. 

Bob marched up a bijou drive, planted 
with trees that looked as if thev ou^rht to 
grow, but either couldn't or wouldn't, and 
rang the bell. 

Upon the door being opened he inquired 
if her ladyship were at home. 

Eeceiving an answer in the affirmative, 
he was at once shown into a small but 
luxuriouslv-furnished drawinii-room, liter- 
ally crowded with feminine knick-knacks 
and conceits. Books, flowers, music, bul- 
rushes, peacock feathers, Japanese fans. 



A SUNDAY CALL. 141 

screens, ornamental photograph stands, 
china, grotesque monsters, &c., met the eye 
in every direction. Last, but not least, 
curled up on a white fur hearth- rug before 
the fire were two fat, wheezy pugs, with 
huge blue satin bows tied round their 
creasy necks, and, without compare, the 
grotesquest monsters of all. 

Altogether, a room in which evidences of 
female folly and female refinement were 
curiously blended, producing a mixed 
impression on the acute observer. 

For a few moments Bob stood with his 
back to the hearth — the pugs occupied the 
central position, and he could only secure 
one corner — familiar izins^ himself with these 
various details, and trvin^' to determine 
where the refinement ended and the folly 
began. But this was a point not easily 
arrived at, and requiring a much greater 
critic on art furniture. 

In justice to his taste, he did not wholly 



142 A CRACK COUNTY. 

approve of all he saw. lie had a man's 
impatience of useless lap-dogs, and pugs in 
particular, especially be-ribboned pugs ; 
also of flimsy antimacassars, gimcrack 
chairs, and little spindle-legged tables, that 
had the horrid knack of over-turning on the 
slightest provocation. Good, solid, sensible 
furniture was what he liked ; not all these 
three-cornered, new-fancfled arranaements, 
which blocked up a room and made people 
afraid to move in it. These reflections 
passed through his mind as he stood await- 
ing her ladyship's arrival. She was a long 
time in coming ; and, impelled by curiosity, 
he took to examining the various photo- 
graphs so liberally dotted about. 

They were nearly all portraits of gentle- 
men beloniainc^ to that class which Dot 
Lankester would probabl}' have designated 
as '• mashers." The same vacuous expres- 
sion of self-content adorned the countenances 
of them all. Their hair was parted down 



A SU^'DAY CALL. H3 

the middle, and beautifully brushed ; their 
coats were tightly buttoned over their 
manly chests ; a pocket handkerchief invari- 
ably protruded — presumably to let the 
public know that the owner possessed such 
an article — and in the matter of shirt-fronts, 
cufls, studs, sleeve-links, watch-chains^ 
charms, rings, gloves and button-holes, they 
were simply beyond reproach. As speci- 
mens of what careful and elaborate dressing- 
can do, they were " Things of beauty, a joy 
for ever." Only not men. At least, so it 
seemed to Bob. There was an air of 
effeminacy about these mute reproductions 
of living objects which made him turn away 
from them in disixust. He felt an irresist- 
ible desire to divest the oriofinals of some of 
their smoothness and gloss, and meet them 
in a fair stand-up fight. 

Continuino^ his tour of examination, he 
came upon a photograph of Lady De Foch- 
sey — the only female one in the room — 



144 A CKACK COUNTY. 

wliicli lie remarked with some wonder- 
ment. She was depicted in full evening 
costume, extremely decolletee, standing 
beside a marble column, with both hands 
clasped tragically behind her head, thus 
boldly calling attention to the seductive 
curves of her c^raceful firrure. 

Bob looked long and critically at this 
masterpiece of the photographic art, coldly 
ascertaining the lady's good and bad 
points, and dissecting each feature with 
cynical composure. Lady De Fochsey's 
e\es were fnie, her nose small and straight, 
her mouth passable, a trifle thin-lipped, 
but otherwise unobjectionable. No doubt, 
as the world goes, a very pretty woman ; 
and yet although he admitted her beauty, 
it was a face that possessed no fascination 
for him. The expression spoilt it. It was 
artificial, unreal and insincere. 

He had just arrived at this conclusion, 
when a rustlim^j of skirts was heard outside 



A SUNDAY CALL. 145 

in the passage. He glanced at the clock. 
She had kept him waiting exactly twenty 
minutes. Luckily, time was of no par- 
ticular importance, else he might have felt 
more aggrieved than he did. The after- 
noon had to be whiled away somehow. 

At the near approach of their mistress, 
the pugs began to display a slight anima- 
tion outside their own immediate circle of 
interests, represented by the fire and the 
hearthruo^. The youncfest and slimmest 
half rose from her recumbent position ; the 
eldest condescended to cease snoring, and 
gave vent to one or two short, snappy 
barks, that might mean satisfaction, but 
which certainly sounded more like irritation 
at the entry of a second intruder. 

Lady De Fochsey appeared on the 
threshold, clad in an exquisite toilette of 
dark blue velvet, which set off her golden 
locks, azure eyes, and pink and white 
complexion to perfection. She had not 
VOL. ir. 26 



l46 A CRACK COUNTY. 

lived twenty -eight, nearly twenty -nine, 
years in the world without learning the 
art of making the most of herself. 

Bob had promised to come early, and he 
had been even better than his word ; in 
consequence of which, her ladyship, instead 
of being already seated in state to receive 
her Sunday afternoon visitors, found her- 
self compelled to struggle into the velvet 
gown in a desperate hurry and slur over 
those last delicate touches of rouge, which, 
when artistically applied, added so greatly 
to her appearance. Not that the rouge 
had been omitted, only her cheeks were 
rather more hectic than usual, and con- 
sequently required a subdued light. 

But her drawing-room was so arranged 
that this could easily be obtained. 

" A thousand pardons for keeping you 
waiting such an unconscionable time, Mr. 
Jarrett," she exclaimed efTusivelv, holdini]: 
out both her white bejewelled hands with 



A SU^?DAY CALL. 147 

a pretty foreign air of apology. " I was 
just finishing a letter to a soldier cousin of 
mine, at the Cape, when you were an- 
nounced, and thought you would be good 
enough to excuse me for a few minutes. 
These foreign letters are always rather an 
undertaking. One has to cram so much 
news into them, and has to rack one's 
brains to find the wherewithal." 

This letter to the soldier cousin was a 
most gratuitous invention on Lady De Foch- 
sey's part, but it sounded better than telling 
the truth, which would have been 

"Ahem! Mr. Jarrett, I'm sorry to have 
kept you so long, but I had to go upstairs 
and dress, and my frock was awfull}'- tight 
and wouldn't meet, and then, just when we 
succeeded in fastening it, one of the buttons 
went crack, and my maid had to hunt for a 
needle and thread to sew it on asfain." 

Of course the soldier cousin was infinitely 
preferable to such a plain unvarnished tale 

2r)* 



118 A CRACK COUNTY. 

as tliat. Women were nowliere if tliey did 
not surround themselves with illusion. 
All admiration — all love was illusion really, 
only of a pleasant kind. 

But if Bob had been annoyed by the 
delay, he was courtier enough not to show 
his vexation, and proved quite equal to the 
occasion. He declared to her ladyship 
that he would willingly have waited all 
day, if only to obtain a glimpse of her. 

She smiled benevolently at him, pulled 
down the blinds three or four feet, seated 
herself with her back to the lic^ht, and 
motioned to him to occupy the vacant 
place on the sofa by her side. Evidently 
she was determined to make amends for 
liavimr detained him so lonc^. 



CHAPTEE VIIL 

DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FORCE. 

*' There ! Sit down, do," she exclaimed 
coaxingly. '' You great tall men seem 
such a terribly long way off a poor little 
woman like me that I declare it's down- 
right hard work having to crane one's 
neck up at j^ou. For my part, I never can 
talk, unless a person be close to me." 

" It assists conversation, certainly," said 
Bob. " I shouldn't think, though, that 
anybody could have the moral courage to 
place any great distance between himself 
and so charming a lady. I know I can't." 
And he plumped down almost on the top 
of the blue velvet skirt. 

" Oh ! you sad flatterer," she murmured 



150 A CBACK COUNTY. 

cofjuettislily. " How am I to believe 
you?" 

" By looking in the glass. Surely you 
see corroboration of the truth there." 

" Yes, of several rather unpleasant ones," 
she thought to herself, but she did not say 
so aloud. 

" And what have you been doing since 
we last met ? " inquired Bob after a slight 
pause. 

" I have gone through a variety of the 
most wonderful experiences, Mr. Jarrett ; 
I feel as if I had only just begun to live, 
in the proper and enlightened sense of the 
word." 

" Indeed ! That sounds very mysterious. 
How did you make so remarkable a dis- 
covery ? " 

" Do you remember my telling you 
about my friend Mrs. St. John, and the 
seance that was to take place at her 
house ? " 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FOKCE. 151 

"Yes, perfectly. I have tlie keenest 
recollection of it," answered Bob. 

" Well, I spent the most creepy, delight- 
ful, and blood-curdling evening I ever 
spent in my life, and all owing to that dear 
man. Monsieur Adolphe De Firdusi. Do 
you know him by any chance ? " 

"Not I. Who is he?" 

" Impossible. You don't actually mean 
to say that you have not even heard of 
him. Well, you are behind the times." 

*' Very likely. It strikes me one would 
have to be uncommonly rapid to be before 
them now-a-days. But with all due respect 
to your ladyship, you have not yet gratified 
my curiosity." 

" Adolphe De Firdusi — isn't it a romantic 
name? just the sort of name you expect 
great things of — is the head of the power- 
ful modern school of electrical, esoteric and 
spiritualistic psychology." 

" Dear me ! And what wonders did this 



152 A CB.ACK COUNTY. 

first-class conjuror perform ? " ejaculated 
Bob. 

"Elevations into space, even of common 
objects like a chair or a table," she re- 
sponded in tones of intense excitement. 
" Mysterious rapping proceeding from the 
spirits with whom he holds communication, 
invisible writing, and many other mar- 
vellous manifestations besides. I confess 
that I went to my friend's house somewhat 
sceptically inclined, but I came away a 
complete convert." 

" It's awful hard lines upon the poor 
spirits," said practical Bob. 

" In what way, Mr. Jarrett? " 

" Why, I fancy that one of the chief 
ideas of our mortal minds in connection 
with a future state is represented by repose. 
We associate the hereafter with rest and 
freedom from worry. Now, according to 
your friend Monsieur Adolphe, the unfor- 
tunate beings who have departed this 



DEVELOPIKG PSYCHIC FORCE. 163 

world and gone to another, are little better 
off than general servants." 

"Eeally, Mr. Jarrett. What extra- 
ordinary things you do say." 

" Well, but is it not so ? These poor 
spirits are at everybody's beck and call. 
A little shoeblack, cleaning his shoes in the 
gutter, displays mediumistic tendencies, and 
he may summon the celestial form ; also 
the tradesman, also the farmer, also nine 
people out of ten. To me there is some- 
thing revolting in the very idea." 

" Ah ! " sighed her ladyship. " You 
speak like one who does not understand. 
As Monsieur Adolphe truly observed the 
other night, ignorance and dulness of the 
fmer perceptions are our greatest enemies. 
I wish you could meet him. He would 
soon alter your opinions." 

" I doubt it," said Bob obstinately. 

" Oh ! yes, indeed he would. No one 
can resist him. He has cultivated liis soul 



154 A CEACK COUNTY. 

to such an extent that he is now nothing 
but a mass of psychic force." 

" I'm afraid I'm rather dense, but will 
you tell me exactly what those words 
mean? At present they convey nothing 
definite to my mind." 

" Dear ! how sad ! " exclaimed Lady De 
Fochsey, clasping her hands tlieatricall3\ 

" Is it ? I look to you to enlighten me." 

" Of course, ' psychic force ' means ever 
so many things," she explained somewhat 
vaguely. 

" All right," interposed Bob. " I'll take 
that for granted." 

" And it is simply impossible to go into 
detail, when one is treating so stupendous 
a subject," she went on, wishing she could 
but recall some of Monsieur Adolphe's 
long words and high sounding phrases. 
" People must have faith — yes, faith first 
and foremost, and then it all comes to 
them in time." 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC POECE. 155 

" Again I must ask you to forgive my 
stupidity, but what comes, Lady De 
rochsey." 

" Oh ! all sorts of things, as I told you 
before. It is so difficult to explain, but 
clairvoyance, and thought-reading, and — 
and spiritual interchanges with the souls of 
those who are dead." 

"Very jolly if you met your dearest 
friend, but quite the reverse if some 
horrible wretch you were only too glad to 
get rid of kept always cropping up," said 
Bob. " Did you receive any messages 

from Monsieur Ad I mean from the 

spirits." 

" Yes, several." 

"And what sort of messages were they ?" 

"Delightful ones. Hoped I was well, 
and looked forward to seeing me. One 
poor man I used to be very fond of in the 
olden days sent me quite a long letter ; 
and, oh! so beautifully worded." 



15G A CKACK COUNTY' 

" It is curious that the language should 
be the same," remarked Bob. "Do the 
spirits ever make any mistakes in ortho- 
graphy ? " 

" How can you ask such a question ? 
It's really quite shameful. I'll not tell you 
anything more if you talk like that." 

" Oh ! yes, do. I want to hear all about 
Monsieur Adolphe ; I am an unbeliever 
now, I admit, but if any one can convert 
me, I feel sure you can." And, whether 
by accident or design, Bob's hand came in 
contact with Lady De Fochsey's, and she 
did not withdraw hers immediately. 

" Ah ! " she said, " I wish I were good at 
explaining things, but I'm not, although 
perhaps I may get to be a more worthy 
disciple by degrees, for Monsieur Adolphe 
says that if only I cultivate my powers 
assiduously, and run up to town occa- 
sionally for the purpose of receiving his 
advice, in time I " 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FORCE. 157 

All of a sudden slie stopped short, and 
fixed her eyes rapturously upon Bob, with 
the air of one who has just made a great 
and exceedingly important discovery. 

" What is the matter ? " he asked, feeling 
rather uncomfortable at being stared at so 
pointedly. 

" Just fancy ! " she exclaimed ecstatically. 
" You are — yes, you really are " 

" I am — I really am — what ? " 

" A medium, my dear boy. Oh ! you 
lucky ^ lucky young man, let me congratulate 
you." And in her rapture her golden head 
almost sank upon his shoulder, only, as 
one side of her fringe felt a little loose, 
she had to be careful, and he profited by 
the opportunity to edge a few inches farther 
away. 

" Bah ! " he exclaimed contemptuously, 
but not politely. 

" Oh ! it's no use saying ' Bah ! ' " she 
rejoined. " The fact remains, and you 



15S A CEACK COUNTY. 

can't help yourself. You possess strong 
magnetic powers. I can tell by your eyes, 
thougli I don't know yet whether you'll 
develop into a medium of the first or only 
the second order. That depends chiefly 
upon yourself." 

"In that case I shan't develop into 
either." 

" But you must. The process is un- 
conscious, and it may so happen that your 
individual will has not much to do with it, 
especially if you come under the influence 

of a — of a " but as she could not find 

the exact word, she broke ofl" short, and 
said softly — "Oh! Mr. Jarrett, I am so 
glad, so ver}^ ver^^ glad. This was pre- 
cisely what I wanted." 

" What are you glad about ? " he asked 
somewhat roughly, beginning to wonder 
if she had gone ofl' her head altogether. 

" You don't quite understand at present 
but I'll try and make it all clear to you. 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC EOIvCE. 159 

Monsieur Adolplie explained to nie most 
particularly the system by which the 
magnetic current is transmitted. It is 
enough, he says, for two people who both 
possess spiritual aptitudes to meet once or 
twice a week, and sit for a couple of hours 
at a time holdino; hands, and lookincr 
steadily into one another's eyes, for them 
insensibly to gain power." 

" Good heavens ! " ejaculated Bob. 
" What next, I wonder ? " 

" But the curious part is this," resumed 
her ladyship, with a pensive smile. "It 
seems that the process is greatly assisted, 
and the cultivation of internal force im- 
mensely facilitated, when the two mediums 
are of opposite sexes. For instance — a man 
and a woman will arrive at much speedier 
results than a woman and a woman, or a 
man and a man." 

"Yes, I can understand that," said Bob, 
with blunt sarcasm. 



ICO A CRACK COUNTY. • 

" All ! you are beginning to compreliend 
at last," she rejoined, in satisfied tones. " I 
thouLflit you would before lono;. These 
things just require a little explanation at 
first starting, but they are not as difficult 
as they seem, between two people who are 
really sympathetic." 

" That's comforting, at any rate." 

" Yer}^, is it not ? And now, Mr. 
Jarrett, what do you say ? Will you 
try?" 

"Try what, Lady De Fochsey? You 
speak in conundrums." 

" Firstly, to develop 3^our higher nature 
and kill the baser." 

" Is that all ? And pray, how am I to 
set about it ? " 

" I'll show you. You have only to do as 
I tell you." 

So saying she jumped up from the sofa, 
drac^c^ed the cover off a small rosewood 
table that stood in the window, lifted it on 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FOECE. 161 

to the hearthrug, and then proceeded to 
place two cane chairs one on either side of 
it. Bob watched these operations with 
amazement. 

" JSTow sit down," she said impatiently. 

He did as he was told, too much mystified 
to venture on an observation. 

" That's right, Mr. Jarrett. Give me 
your two hands." 

" Won't one do ? " 

" No, I must have both." 

He held them out obediently, feeling 
somewhat like a captive. 

" Now take mine in yours — so, and press 
them firmly." 

At this request Bob revived. He lost no 
time in complying with it. Indeed, he 
began to consider the situation great fun. 
They were quite close to each other, their 
knees almost touched, and only the small 
table separated them. 

Bat her ladyship was not satisfied yet. 
VOL. II. 27 



1C2 A CRACK COUNTY. 

*' Look straight into my eyes," she said, 
with preternatural gravity, " and after a 
time tell me what you see." 

" Tliere's no occasion to wait. I see a 
very pretty woman," replied Bob au- 
daciously. 

" Hush ! You must not speak yet. It is 
too soon." 

" How long am I to keep quiet ? I 
never bargained for having to play mum- 
chance." 

" You must judge by your own feelings ; 
probably about a quarter of an hour." 

"Very well," replied Bob. " But before 
we begin this game in earnest — for I 
presume it is a game — may I venture to 
make a suiifoestion ? " 

*' Yes, if you are quick about it, but 
don't be long, for the conditions are favour- 
able, and it's a thousand pities not to profit 
by them." 

" From what I gather/' said Bob gravely 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FORCE. 163 

" our present object is to strengthen and 
transmit the mac^netic force which we — or 
rather you — believe we both possess. Now 
at this moment there is but one point of 
contact between us. Tiie electric current 
passes through our hands, and. our hands 
alone. Don't vou think — I make this 
suggestion with all due diffidence — that if 
you were to put out your pretty little feet 
and I were to put out mine, the effect 
might be enormously intensified ? We 
should then secure a negative and a positive 
pole." 

She sighed gently. 

" Yes, Mr. Jarrett, per — perhaps you are 
right." 

" I'm sure of it," said Bob confidently. 

"And now to business," she said. 
'' Keep on pressing m}^ hands and looking 
into my eyes, and if, by the end of a 
quarter of an hour, you begin to feel 
peculiar sensations, swear to describe them, 

•27* 



161 A CRACK COUNTY. 

as I swear to describe mine. Only don't be 
disappointed if we fail to produce any 
active manifestations to-da}^, since it is 
absolutely necessary first to establish 
harmonious relations." 

Bob laughed heartily. 

" All right," he said. " Your orders 
shall be obeyed." 

And then, for fifteen whole minutes 
neither of them spoke a word. 

The clock on the mantelpiece ticked 
away industriously, and those two abomi- 
nable pugs snored on louder than ever. 

Now, to have free leave given you to 
press a pretty woman's hand, and a woman 
moreover, not disinclined for flirtation, is a 
permission of which most men would take 
liberal advantage. To do Bob justice he 
was by no means backward in doing so. 
But squeezing hands surreptitiously and 
from impulse, and squeezing hands by 
command, are two very difTerent things, as 



DEVELOriNG PSYCHIC FOECE. 165 

before long he began to discover. For 
TV lien you are enjoined to continue the 
pressure at all hazards, then the temptation, 
and, suh rosa, sense of enjoyment, vanishes, 
until in the end you become onl}^ conscious 
of an irksome effort. If any gentleman 
doubts this fact, let him try the experiment 
for himself. 

For the first five minutes Bob's fancy 
was amazingly tickled. He discovered that 
the lid of one of Lady De Fochsey's eyes 
drooped more than the other, that the rims 
beneath them were not natural, and that 
the eyes themselves, when critically 
examined, were wholly wanting in 
expression. But the next five minutes, 
he began to feel rather bored, and suffered 
from an irresistible desire to yawn, which 
desire, however, he could not gratify, being 
unable to withdraw his hand. The last 
found him growling and grumbling 
inwardl}^ and voting the whole thing " a 



161 A CKACK COU>'TY. 

most deuced bore." He made a mental 
vow, never to squeeze a woman's hand as 
long as he lived. The nerves of his arm 
had grown quite dead. At length, to his 
infinite relief, the quarter struck. 

" Well ! " murmured Lady De Fochsey, 
who appeared in a dreamy and semi- 
h3^pnotic state. " How do you feel? " 

" Oh ! awfully jolly," responded Bob, not 
wholly veraciously, but thankful to be 
allowed the use of his tonc^ue a^i^ain. 
" How do you ? " 

" Strange — very strange. I have in- 
describable sensations. Do 3^ou see any- 
thing ? '■' 

" Katlier," he answered, his sense of the 
ridiculous assuming the upper hand. 

" Oh ! what ? Tell me what." 

" I sec " — and he lowered his voice to a 
mysterious key — " visions of fair dis- 
embodied women, floating about in spirit 
space. Waves of ether surround them. 



DEVELOPINa PSYCHIC FORCE. 167 

They are free from every coarse and earthly 
element " 

*' Yes, yes, go on," she mterrupted. 
** This is really wonderful, especially at the 
first attempt. It proves that you possess 
most special gifts." 

" One gracious form beckons me to 
draw near," continued Bob, still more 
dramatically. " She whispers that she has 
waited long, so long for my coming." 

" Just like me," sighed her ladyship. 

" Yes, just like you. She says that our 
communications require strengthening — 
that I am^too"far off. Ha! she bids me, 
with ethereal condescension, encircle her 
diaphanous and well-nigh invisible waist, 
wuth my grossly mortal arm." Here Bob 
proceeded to clasp Lady De Fochsey's 
tightly-laced one, the lady oflering no 
resistance. How could she? When he 
was a medium, and was producing such 
lovely manifestations. 



168 A CRACK COUNTY- 

" My kindred spirit," she murmured, 
" my kindred spirit, at last — at last." 
Then, abandoning herself completely to 
the ecstasy of the moment, she added 
deliriously, " Is that all ? " 

" Oh ! dear no. Would you believe it, 
my spiritual adviser actually commands me 
to press my mundane lips to her chaste 
ones. She does not even recoil from the 
thought of possible contamination, but 
offers me a draught of purest nectar." 

To what length Bob's audacity and 
irrepressible spirit of mischief would have 
led him it is impossible to say. Suffice it, 
that his arm was still round her ladyship's 
waist and her head was within suspicious 
proximity to his own, when suddenly the 
door flew open, and Lord Littelbrane was 
announced. The aspirants after psychic 
force started apart. 

No further manifestations could be 
expected to take place in the presence of 



DEVELOPING PSYCHIC FORCE. 169 

a third, and probably uncongenial, party. 
Lady De Foclisey gave a little startled 
scream, and alas ! alas ! the powerful 
electric current which had been so success- 
fully established between herself and Mr. 
Jarrett was rudely broken. 

But that it had been established was 
conclusively proved by the shock felt on 
either side at its unexpected and inop- 
portune rupture. 

None but male and female mediums 
could possibly have arrived at such sterling 
results in so short a space of time. 

If the height of clairvoj^ance had been 
reached in one single seance, what might 
not be hoped for at the next meeting ? 

To the earnest believer in psychology, 
delio^htful and never-endin£]j fields of 
research were open. Guided and impelled 
by the glorious spirit, the body might take 
care of itself. That vile earthly thing was 
of no account. 



CHAPTEE IX. 

AN UNTIMELY INTERRUrTION. 

It took a good deal to disturb Lady De 
Foclisey's self-possession ; but for a few 
seconds after tlie announcement of Lord 
Littelbrane slie was fairly staggered. 

Her mind had been filled with all kinds 
of rare and transcendental ideas. It was 
uplifted and exalted in quite an uncommon 
degree. Her spirit was just ready to soar 
amongst astral planes and undertake a 
celestial voyage of discovery, and now, aU 
of a sudden, she was called upon to attune 
herself to things terrestrial. It was like 
being bound by some horrid chain that 
rudely pulled you back to earth. Her 
discomfiture was increased, too, by the fact 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 171 

that, amongst the whole circle of her 
acquaintance, his lordship was the very 
last person whose presence she expected. 
No thought of him had entered her head ; 
for, although she had already spent two 
whole hunting seasons in Stiffshire, he had 
never once condescended to call, or to set 
foot inside her house ; and this in spite of 
sundry friendly little invitations issued by 
her hi the beo[innino\ 

Beyond a few stereotyped remarks out 
hunting, confined almost exclusively to the 
weather and the sport, no civilities had 
been exchan^'ed between them. After a 
time her innate sense had told her tliat this 
was a man on whom feminine fascinations 
and blandishments would produce but little 
effect. It was wiser to reserve them for a 
more sensitive and emotional individual. 

So she had almost given up the attempt 
of trying to enrol his lordship amongst the 
list of her admirers, and contented herself 



172 A CRACK COUNTY. 

witli being on speaking terms — nothing 
more. 

Consequently she was now at a loss to 
understand to what the honour of this visit 
was due. Her brain was too distrauG^ht to 
divine any possible motive. 

But if, for once in her life, Lady De 
Fochsey felt slightly disconcerted, Lord 
Littelbrane was a hundred thousand times 
more so. His notions about ladies and 
their behaviour were strict, not to say old- 
fashioned, and he had seen enough to shock 
him very considerably. There could be 
no two opinions as to the familiarity of the 
positions in which the parties had been 
surprised. If he could have withdrawn 
without saying a word, most assuredly he 
would have done so. But it was too late 
now to efiect an escape ; therefore, after 
an awkward pause, he advanced a little 
way into tlie room, and turning very red 
in the face, said. 



AN UNTIMELY INTEREUPTION. 173 

"I beg pardon. I fear I am in- 
truding." 

At these words Lady De Foclisey called 
all lier forces into action. She felt that 
the moment was critical — that, in fact, her 
whole character might depend upon it. A 
very pretty story could doubtless be 
trumped up at her expense, and circulated 
all over the hunting-field. In some way 
or other she must account for the entire 
business, and in a manner, moreover, that 
would completel}^ remove his lordship's 
displeasure. The task was by no means 
easy. There were a good many facts 
against her, but she did not despair. Her 
babyish blue eyes, and innocent pout, and 
childish speeches which professed no harm 
in anything had stood her in very good 
stead before now. Besides, in spite of his 
stilTness and reserve, she did not believe 
Lord Littelbrane to be either a very strong 
or a very acute man. She thought that it 



174 A CUACK COUNTY. 

might not prove altogether difficult to 
throw (lust in his eyes. 

Therefore she held out her hand almost 
afTectionately, and said with great apparent 
unconcern : 

" Intruding ? Oh ! dear no. How could 
3^ou possibly imagine such a thing, my 
lord ? Mr. Jarrett and I were merely 
trying to repeat some spiritualistic experi- 
ments which I saw the other night, and 
which required a certain juxtaposition of 
the electrical forces." 

She was very good at long words. She 
picked them up like a parrot, and in- 
troduced them regardless of their meaning. 
But they sounded well — learned, scientific 
and so on ; and, to tell the truth, his lord- 
ship was a little impressed. 

" Oh I indeed," he responded. " And 
are these experiments confined exclusively 
to vourself and this — " he was ^oin^f to 
say i^cntleman, but checked himself and 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 175 

substituted " young man," without, how- 
ever, dei(?ninfT to look at Bob. 

She smiled up into his face with the 
frankness of a child. 

" Of course not. We were lon2:in2^ for 
a third person to assist our efforts. Will 
you join us?" and she smiled even more 
sweetly than before. 

He was molhfied, but not sufficiently so 
to accept the invitation. 

" No, thank you. I am afraid your 
experiments are not much in my line." 

She looked at him oddly, wickedly, 
alluringly. 

" Oh ! how cruel. Won't you even 
try ? " 

" Thanks ; I think not. At all events," 
lovering his voice, " not in the present 
company." 

" Ah, I understand. But," shrugging- 
her shoulders, " it was simply a case of 
faute de niisuxy 



176 A CKACK COUMY. 

" I am fi^lad to hear it. I feared it micrlit 
be otherwise." 

" What ! with your experience ? " Then 
she rested her hand on his coat-sleeve, and 
said in a louder key, " Dear Lord Littel- 
brane, you must really let me initiate you 
into some of the mysteries of the higher 
life. I do not profess to be an adept, but 
we might try and cultivate our souls 
together. I feel sure there is sympathy 
between us." 

The last ' remnants of his ill-humour 
vanished. He felt infinitely flattered and 
raised in his own esteem. Only he could 
not unbend as loncf as that " duller " — that 
nephew of Straightem's remained in the 
room. lie wondered why on earth the 
fellow did not go ; and although he was 
not going to demean himself by talking to 
him, he might talk at him, and convey a 
pretty broad hint as to the desirability of 
his prompt departure. 



AN UNTDIELY INTERRUPnON. 177 

'' I think so also," lie said, addressing 
Lady De Foclisey pointedly, '• but sympathy 
requires a tete-a-tete. Don't you agree with 
me ? " 

" Ah ! yes, of course. Do you hear that, 
Mr. Jarrett ? " 

Bob marvelled inwardly at her impu- 
dence — " brass," he dubbed it mentally. 
But he had no desire to stay any longer 
and be scowled at by Lord Littelbrane, so 
he took up his hat, and, moving towards 
Lady De Foclisey, said abruptly : 

" Good-bye. I must be going." 

" Must you really ? " she asked, in 
accents which seemed to say, " Quite right. 
1 think you had much better, for 3'ou have 
had your innings, and now should make 
room for another." Then, turning to Lord 
Littelbrane, she said : 

" Excuse me one moment, my lord." 

He bowed stiffly in response. Up till 
now he had resolutely abstained from taking 
VOL. II. 28 



178 A CRACK COUNTY. 

the slinlitest notice of Bob, and desired to 
avoid an introduction, so lie turned his 
back upon liim and walked to the window, 
and stood gazing vacantly out at the green 
fields and browsing sheep. 

Meantime Lady De Fochsey accompanied 
Bob to the door. 

" Was there ever such an untimely inter- 
ruption ? " she whispered confidentially. 
" I declare I could have boxed his lord- 
ship's ears." 

" Hush ! he wnll hear you." 

"I don't care if he does. He has spoilt 
our afternoon." 

Bob could not help feeling rather dis- 
gusted w4th her hypocris}'. He was con- 
vinced in his own mind that no sooner did 
he leave the house than she would make up 
to Lord Littelbrane, precisely as she had 
made up to him. 

" His coming was awkward, certainly," 
he admitted. '* And i feel sorry on your 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 179 

account, as I fear you were placed in a 
rather disagreeable situation, and partly 
tlirougli my instrumentality." 

" Oh ! never mind about me, I'll soon 
smooth old ' Stick-in-the-mud ' over. But, 
I say, Mr. Jarrett — Bob — I must call you 
Bob, Mr. Jarrett sounds so formal." 

" Well, what is it. Lady De Fochsey ? " 

" You will keep our manifestations 
strictly secret, won't you ? It would not 
be wise to mention them to an ignorant 
and unsympathetic public." 

" Of course not," said Bob, repudiating 
the idea of recounting his folly. " You 
ma}^ trust me to hold my tongue, especially 
where so many universal truths are con- 
cerned." 

" That's right. I knew I could depend 
on you ; and, Bob — when will you come 
again r 

She might have been a girl of eighteen, 
proud in the possession of her first lover 

28* 



180 A CKACK COUNTY. 

and confident of her powers of attraction ; 
but her eagerness repulsed liim. It wanted 
the charm of extreme youth. 

"I really can't say," he rejoined coldly. 
" It depends entirely on what's going on." 

" Come soon, there's a dear creature. We 
ought to join hands again in three or four 
days' time at latest, else the magnetic 
current may evaporate." 

"Perhaps it would be just as well to 
let it, all things considered." 

" Nonsense. You must not talk like 
that. To-day's sitting has conclusively 
proved that we are indispensable to one 
another. You can only rise through my 
instrumentality, and I through yours. We 
have each a mission to perform, which should 
render us superior to personal feeling." 

" And what will be the end of it all ? " he 
inquired with languid interest. 

" End ? Why, in course of time we may 
be able to raise the chairs and tables from 



AN UNTIMELY INTERPXPTION. 181 

their places and suspend them in mid-air. 
We may get to hold an ordinary pencil in 
our hands, and find long spirit-messages 
written upon a slate ; we may even see the 
forms of the departed hovering about our 
heads and whispering divine words of love 
and comfort. Surely you cannot entertain 
any doubts after the results we have ob- 
tained to-day? They were so absolutely 
conclusive." 

" I don't know. They seemed to me to 
be purely mundane results at best. If they 
contained any divine element, the spirits 
must be very naughty people." 

" That is because you have a mundane 
mind. We both have at present ; but by 
degrees we shall grow out of all that, and 
disencumber ourselves of every earthly 
attribute." 

"I doubt it," said Bob, sceptically. 
" Earthly attributes have a nasty way of 
sticking?." 



182 A CEACK COUNTY. 

And witli that he efTected his escape, 
and did not breathe freely until once more 
he found himself outside in the open air, in- 
haling the clear frosty atmosphere, instead 
of the languorous flower-laden perfumes of 
Lady De Fochsey's drawing-room. 

"Phew!" he exclaimed, with a quick 
outward breath, as if to shake off every 
reminiscence of his visit, " was there ever 
such a pack of nonsense ? Eeally, it makes 
one wonder what next women will be up 
to now-a-days. Every new craze, no 
matter how foolish, finds converts amongst 
the fair sex." 

Then he walked on a step or two, and 
added, with a growing sense of self- dis- 
satisfaction : 

" I wonder what the deuce Dot would 
say if she knew what an infernal fool I've 
been makinc^ of mvself. I shouldn't like 
her to hear how I've spent my Sunday 
afternoon." 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 18 

Meanwhile Lady De Fochsey applied 
herself to the entertainment of her remain- 
ing guest. He had felt annoyed by her 
prolonged conference with Bob, and she 
found him looking very cross and conse- 
quential, like a bird whose feathers have 
been ruffled the wrong way. 

" Ten thousand pardons," she exclaimed 
in her prettiest and most penitent manner. 
" That young man promises to develop into 
a dreadful bore. He has fastened himself 
upon me, and really I hardly know how to 
get rid of him." 

This was an entirely new aspect of 
affairs, and one infinitely more pleasing to 
Lord Littelbrane. 

If what she stated was true, and she 
was being persecuted by an impudent 
stranger, he was more or less bound to 
step in and protect her from further in- 
convenience. 

" You are much too good-natured," he 



184 A CEACK COUNTY. 

said, " and should not allow yourself to be 
imposed upon." 

She sighed, and drooped her eyes in a 
timid, feminine fashion that she knew how 
to assume on occasions. 

" Ah ! Lord Littelbrane, your adyice is 
excellent, no doubt ; but \yhat is a poor 
single woman in my position to do ? She 
does not like to be downright rude, and yet 
on the other hand she is more or less at the 
mercy of every man she comes across." 

" How did you first get to know this Mr. 
Jarrett ? " he asked, seating himself in the 
place recently occupied, by Bob. 

" I met him out huntiniz. You re- 
member the day he tumbled into the 
brook ? " 

" Do you mean to say that he had the 
impertinence to speak to you r " 

" I dropped my hunting crop and he 
opened a gate for me. I was obliged to say 
thank you ! " 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 185 

" And on the streni]^th of that the fellow 
has actually had the cheek to come and 
call. Well! I never." 

She did not contradict him, and left his 
lordship under the impression that Bob had 
forced his acquaintance upon her. It was 
a little mean, perhaps, not to tell the truth, 
but it saved an infinity of trouble ; and 
really, if one were to try and stick up for 
all one's friends in their absence life would 
become a perfect burden. To be nice to 
them when they were present was the 
extent of what she could undertake. 

" And what about this spiritualistic 
business ? " inquired Lord Littelbrane sus- 
piciously. " Did your friend Jarrett start 
the idea ? " 

" Well, no, not exactly. I proposed it 
at first in fun, and because I did not know 
what on earth to do with him. And then 
as you might have seen — but really I hardly 
like to tell you." 



186 A CEACK COUNTY. 

And she turned her head away coyly, 
and gazed pensively at one little slippered 
foot. 

'• Yes, yes, go on," entreated her com- 
panion, whose curiosity was thoroughly 
aroused. 

" Well, then, the young man grew 
shockingly familiar. I was just going to 
ring the bell and bid the servant show him 
out, when you came in. You may imagine 
my feelings of relief." 

This was a very strange story, concocted 
on the spur of the moment, but stranger 
still, Lord Littelbrane believed it. From 
that instant he saw before him a beautiful 
and injured woman, whose natural modesty 
had been grossly outraged. 

" Next time I meet the brute I'll punch 
his head," he exclaimed vindictively, 
knowing, however, that he would do no 
such thing, except b}^ deputy. 

" Oh ! No, indeed, my lord, you must 



AN UNTIMELY INTERRUPTION. 187 

not be so fierce. Mr. Jarrett misconducted 
himself a little certainly, but then you see 
he is a medium, and mediums are always 
entitled to a certain licence." 

" H'm ! And pray how do you get to be 
a medium ? " 

" In a great many different ways." 

"Do you think you could make me one? 
I should rather like to acquire a few 
privileges in your case." 

" I don't know. I've never had the 
chance of ascertaiainoj whether I could or 
whether I couldn't." 

" Will you try. Lady De Fochsey ? " 

He spoke so gravely that she suspected 
some serious intention. 

" With pleasure, my lord, provided you 
really wish it." 



CHAPTEE X. 

LADY DE FOCIISEY CHOOSES BETWEEN HER 
WORLDLY AND SPIRITUAL LOVERS. 

Lord Littelbrane had come there that 
day charged with a desperate purpose, and 
bent on fulfiUing a design which he had 
only formed after long self- communing and 
inward cogitation. The presence of Mr. 
Jarrett — the pose in which he had dis- 
covered him — had shaken his intention, 
but not wholly destroyed it. An expla- 
nation had, however, been forthcoming, 
which he considered satisfactory. The 
lady was to be pitied, not blamed, as in his 
haste he liad imagined. A dear, pretty, 
little good-natured thing, who required 
some one stronirer than herself to i^uide 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 189 

and direct her through the shoals of life. 
A woman who was sweet and guileless as 
an infant, a very child in nature, and whose 
faults proceeded entirely from too kindly 
and unworldly a disposition. 

This was how he summed her up, after 
half an hour's conversation and after 
some fifty or sixty eye-glances, lip-pouts, 
shoulder-shrugs, and hand-touches. It 
takes quite an ordinary Delilah to defeat a 
Sampson, and Lord Littelbrane was no 
pillar of strength. The very seclusion in 
which he had lived, his reluctance to mix 
freely with the sex, rendered him all the 
more credulous and unsuspicious. Taking 
a wife was very much the same as taking 
an awkward fence out hunting. He did 
not like the necessity. It put him in an 
awful fright ;* still, once it became patent 
that the thing must be done, it was wiser 
to go through with a good grace. 

And now he found his courage rising. 



190 A CRACK C0U:NTY. 

She was so very sweet and gracious — nay, 
almost caressing. 

He cleared his throat, and, with a pre- 
paratory cough, said : 

" Ahem ! Lady De Fochsey, I wish to 
consult you on a delicate matter, but 
before doing so will you grant me a 
favour ? " 

" Why, most certainl}^" she answered, 
surprised by the solemnity of his manner. 

" Thank you. I thought you would. 
Will 3^ou give me your views on matri- 
mony ? " 

" On matrimon}^ ! " she echoed, fairly 
astonished at the demand. 

*' Yes, I should like to hear your ideas, 
if you have no objection to stating them." 

" Do you mean my own personal expe- 
riences, Lord Littelbrane, or the opinions 
that I have formed in a general way ? " 

" I should like both, but the former for 
choice. What 1 want to arrive at is this : 



LADY DE Jb'OCHSEY'S LOVERS. 191 

Do you, or do you not, approve of marriage, 
looking at it not emotionally, but merely as 
a philosopher ? " 

" What a peculiar question. Of course 
I hold with matrimony as an institution. 
Women would fare even worse than they 
do without it." 

" Have you fully considered the responsi- 
bilities connected with the state ? " 

" To what responsibilities do you refer, 
my lord ? " 

" At the present moment, chiefly to 
those incurred by parents towards their 
offspring." 

" Oh ! I don't pretend to have any 
experience in such matters," she said 
lightly. " You see I was lucky enough 
to avoid bringing a tribe of children into 
the world." 

" You never had any ? Not even one ? " 

" No, never, I am thankful to say." 

'' Excuse me, Lady De Fochsey, but 



192 A CRACK COU>'TY. 

were you not disappointed at failing to 
perpetuate tlie family name ? " 

She burst out laughing. This cross- 
examination appeared to her so utterly 
absurd, and it had not yet dawned upon 
her what he was driving at. 

" Eeally, Lord Littelbrane," she said, 
still striving to control her mirth, " I 
did not consider the family name of so 
much importance as all that, and it 
would have driven Sir Jonathan simply 
mad to have had a squalling baby in the 
house." 

" Strange," he murmured, eyeing her 
critically from top to toe. " Any one would 
have said that you were formed by nature 
to be the mother of a healthy and numerous 
family." 

She was not over and above pleased at 
the turn the conversation was taking. She 
told herself it was coarse — very coarse. 
As a charming woman she had no objection 



LADY I)E FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 193 

to being admired, but not as a peopler of 
the world. 

" Does your ladyship enjoy good 
health ? " he went on, not noticing her 
displeasure, and still pursuing his own 
train of reflections with a stolid perse- 
verance that was one of the chief attributes 
of his character. 

" Yes, very, thank goodness. Tve never 
been ill in my life. But why this sudden 
interest ? " 

" Young, strong, handsome, and the 
owner of an admirable constitution," he 
exclaimed, as if speaking his thoughts 
aloud. " Where can I find a more suitable 
mate, or one more likely to furnish me 
with an heir ? Age, looks, temper — every- 
thing; is right." 

" Good gracious ! Lord Littelbrane. 
What on earth are you talking about ? '* 

" The time has come for an explanation., 
Lady De Fochsey." And as he spoke, he 
VOL. II. 29 



104 A CRACK COUNTY. 

rose from liis seat and began pacing rest- 
lessly up and down tlie room. " It is 
important that I should marry and obtain 
a successor, otherwise the family title and 
estates pass into unknown hands." 

" What a misfortune," she exclaimed 
with an irrepressible touch of satire. 

" Of all the ladies of my acquaintance," 
he went on boldly, warming to his subject 
at last, " you are the one whom I consider 
most fitted to assist in procuring the 
desired result. I am a plain-spoken man and 
like coming to the point at once. My age 
is forty six, and I have twelve thousand a 
year. Will you be Lady Littelbrane ?" 

So saying he stopped short, and looked 
hard at her ladyship with his small colour- 
less eyes. 

For the second time that day she ex- 
perienced a genuine movement of surprise. 
Lord Littelbrane's proposal, however flatter- 
ing it might be to her vanity, was totally 



LADY BE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 195 

unexpected. He had not paved the way 
for it in the least. Moreover, this brusque 
style of courtship did not recommend itself 
to her ideas. They — as we already know — 
were high-flown and romantic. 

Besides on this particular afternoon her 
soul was still steeped in the vague and 
exquisite rapture produced by the recent 
seance. Mystic influences intoxicated it. 
If he had appealed to the more lofty and 
spiritual side of her nature, he might have 
had a chance ; but there was something 
revolting and grossly material in the notion 
of being invited to marry a man for the 
express purpose of furnishing him with a 
son and heir. Added to this, she had no 
natural love of children. The siizht of a 
baby did not throw her into tender 
rhapsodies. On the contrary, the little 
ugly, puckered, red-faced things only 
inspired her with aversion. All the 
affection she had to spare was already 

29* 



196 A CRACK COUNTY. 

concentrated upon her darling pugs. In 
short, Lord Littelbrane's proposal could not 
possibly have been couched in more in- 
felicitous terms. The very words " children 
and parental responsibilities " made her 
shiver. And then, he was so abominably 
grave. His face would have reflected 
credit upon an undertaker, and won him 
golden opinions as a hired mourner at a 
funeral. She dearly loved a man with a 
little dash and " go " about him, even if he 
did require keeping in his place every now 
and ajiain. Durin^r the whole time of Mr. 
Jarrett's visit she had never once felt dull. 
But, on the other hand. Lord Littelbrane 
was a wealthy nobleman, and occupied a 
fme position. If she married him she 
would be able to snub all those people who 
had shown her the cold shoulder during 
her widowhood. To do so would aflx^rd 
infinite satisfaction. No doubt he ollered 
many advantages from a worldly point of 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 197 

view. Even spiritual exaltation could not 
entirely shut her eyes to that fact. And 
then she looked at him. Looked critically 
and dispassionately at his little, undersized 
figure ; his bloodless face, with its covering 
of wizened-up skin ; his sandy hair, and 
weak, watery eyes. He was very insig- 
nificant ; in fact, downright ugl}'. The 
sort of man she disliked. Nevertheless, one 
short hour ago she might have taken him, 
and put up with his personal appearance ; 
but at the present moment her whole 
being vibrated in response to the ecstatic 
conviction that she was deeply, desperately 
in love, and at last had fallen victim to the 
long-sought and vainly-courted passion of 
which she had read so much in novels, and 
seen so little in real life. 

Already she felt like a heroine of 
romance. Bob's brown eyes and bright 
glances had penetrated her impressionable 
heart, and henceforth she told herself that 



198 A CRACK COUNTY. 

she could never, never wed any but a 
medium in search of the eternal verities. 

How rapturous and yet how lofty had 
been the sensations conjured up by that 
too brief seance. And now she was re- 
quested to sacrifice all these grand, heroic 
feelinn^s — feelintrs which seemed to lift her 
into an altogether purer atmosphere — in 
order to bring a young Littelbrane into the 
world. 

Faugh ! The vulgarity and the gross 
materialism of the proposition clashed with 
all her finer instincts, and even rendered 
her impervious to her own self-interest. 
The excitation of her mood was such that 
it repudiated the commonplace idea of 
getting married and having children. She 
rose from her seat, smoothed down the front 
of her dress (a habit of hers), and said : 

" M}^ lord, you do me great honour ; 
nevertheless I cannot become Lady Littel- 
brane.'* 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 199 

He was too utterly amazed to be offended. 
Such a reply had never entered into his 
calculations. 

" Why not ? " he asked incredulously. 
" Have you any reason for saying no ? " 

A mischievous smile played round the 
corners of her mouth. 

" Because it is just possible I might 
disappoint your expectations." 

He looked at her, much as he would 
have looked at some thoroughbred mare. 

" 1 am inclined to think not, Lady De 
Fochsey." 

" Well, whether I should or whether 
I shouldn't, I am afraid to run the risk." 

" There need be none as far as you are 
concerned." 

" What ? " she exclaimed satirically. 
" Not when Napoleon the Great offers the 
honour of an alliance ? Pshaw ! my lord 
I know what men are too well to believe 
you." 



200 A CRACK COUISTY. 

He was rather flattered at being 
compared with so famous a man. He 
smiled. 

" I do not think you quite realise what 
you are refusing," he said with quiet 
confidence. 

She made no immediate reply. Indeed, 
she began to think that, arrogant as they 
sounded, there might be some truth in his 
words. She had got a little nearer earth 
again in the last few minutes, and the 
extreme assurance of his manner impressed 
her more than she cared to admit. 

" Perhaps not. It is just possible you 
may be right there," she said uneasily. 

"• However," he continued, taking up his 
hat and stick, " I shall not look upon your 
decision as final. No doubt my proposal 
has come upon you as a surprise. Think 
it over. In a month's time I shall ask 
you again to be my wife, and expect then 
to receive a dilFerent answer." 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 201 

And with this curious speech he de- 
parted, feeling very much more intent on 
gaining Lady De Fochsey's consent than 
when he had first entered the house. 

Opposition lent a zest to the pursuit 
which had hitherto been wanting. 

He was not in the least downcast, as 
many men similarly situated might have 
been. He possessed far too good an opinion 
of himself to believe for one moment that 
the lady of his choice was in earnest. His 
mind could not realize any woman refusing 
him seriously. 

Being somewhat unprepared for so great 
an act of condescension on his part, it was 
quite natural that she should require a little 
time to get accustomed to it. This was 
how he construed her rejection of his 
suit. 

As for himself — well — he did not profess 
to be a very ardent wooer. He was marry- 
ing from principle, and from principle 



202 A CBACK COUNTY. 

alone. That was why, unlike the rest of 
mankind, he could look round calmly, and 
select a partner according to his theories of 
selection and maternal aptitude. But 
under these circumstances he was not in a 
hurry. He felt none of the passionate 
impetuosity of youth, and had no objection 
to wait until her ladyship had become 
thoroughly familiarized with the greatness 
and importance of her mission in life. 

Of her ultimate acquiescence, he enter- 
tained no doubts whatever. 

When Lord Littlebrane had gone. Lady 
De Fochsey sat for a long while lost in 
meditation. By this time her mood was no 
lonf^rer so exalted as it had been immedi- 
ately after Eobert Jarrett's departure. The 
phantasies of her brain were growmg 
dimmer and vaguer. 

Already an inward voice whispered 
uneasily that she had done a foolish thing 
in refusing Lord Littelbrane. 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 203 

" What has a woman of your age got to 
do with love ? " the tormentor kept on 
sa3dng. " Are you not past all that 
folly ? " 

The thought made her feel quite 
hysterical. It was such a cruel, cruel 
question to emanate from one's own secret 
consciousness, that it set her off laughing 
and crying by turns. 

The pugs were disturbed in their 
slumbers, and barked in melancholy 
chorus. 

Thank goodness ! to these dear, discreet 
confidantes she could confess the tumul- 
tuous passions that tore her heart in twain. 
Throwing herself full length on the hearth- 
rug she embraced them fervently, almost 
as if they, too, had been mediums, and 
cried aloud : 

"Oh! Doodie, Oh! Snoodie, my sweet 
darlings ! Pity your poor mistress, for she 
is most dreadfully in love, and has actually 



204 A CEACK COUKTY. 

refused a coronet and twelve thousand a 
year. My pretty ones, what do you say 
to that ? " 

Doodie and Snoodie curled their tails, 
blinked their eyes, and licked their black 
shiny lips as much as to say : 

" We think our ' poor mistress ' has 
taken leave of her senses altogether ; but 
it don't much matter to us, as long as she 
will retain them sufficiently to keep up a 
good fire. As for love — it's all nonsense. 
Comfort's the thing to go in for. Food, 
warmth, drink, then sentiment can be dis- 
pensed with." 

Unfortunately Lady De Fochsey was 
unable to obtain a clear insis^ht into the 
sagacious minds of Doodie and Snoodie. 
If she had, she might have seen that 
materialism there reigned supreme. Xo 
gracious spirit-forms of departed pugs 
aflected the serenity of the living. 

But their mistress, as she lay with them 



LADY DE FOCHSEY'S LOVERS. 205 

clasped in her arms, kept on wondering what 
further delicious manifestations mi^^ht have 
taken place if only Lord Littelbrane had 
not appeared when he did. 

Her mind was a disordered chaos, in 
which worldly and spiritual lovers were 
grotesquely jumbled up, now one, now the 
other gaining a short-lived preponderance. 
Still, she had had so many of the former 
that on the whole she preferred the latter. 
A. spiritual embrace was not only very 
exciting, but also delightfully novel. 
Exhausted sensation took a fresh lease of 
life when brought into communion with 
psychological converts. Spirit - wooing 
was so refined, so -chaste, so exquisitely 
chivalrous. 

There was nothing the least prosaic 
about it — not like Lord Littelbrane's love- 
making. His mode of courtship had 
been laconic and commonplace to a 
dec^ree. 



CHAPTER XI. 



THE divinity's MOTHER. 



As Bob walked in the direction of home 
his thoughts, curiously enough, did not 
dwell much on the events that had taken 
place during his visit to Lady De Fochsey. 
They rebounded from her ladyship to Dot 
Lankester. It was strange how all the 
higher longings within him, instead of 
responding to the advances of his spiritual 
affinity, were attracted in an entirely 
different direction. He was disgusted with 
the part he had more or less been forced 
to play, and felt as if he had behaved 
traitorously towards his real love. 

Four whole days had now elapsed since 
he had seen her. He becfan to fear she 



THE DIVINITY'S M0TIIEH. 207 

must be ill, and wondered, although the 
hour was somewhat advanced, whether he 
could not concoct some excuse for calling 
at Doctor Lankester's house, and perhaps 
obtaining a peep of his daughter. 

Thus thinking, he quickened his stride, 
and walked steadily on, until within about 
half a mile of the village. Then, all of a 
sudden, as he turned a sharp bend in the 
road, he saw no less a person than the 
doctor himself immediately ahead. 

This was indeed a piece of good luck, for 
even if he failed to catch a glimpse of Dot, 
he was sure to hear some news of her, and 
learn the reason why, in spite of all his 
endeavours, thev had not met. 

He soon overtook his neighbour, who 
was walking at a leisurely pace, like one 
enjoying the Sabbath repose, and who ex- 
pressed his pleasure at their meeting. 

" How do you do, Mr. Jarrett ? " he said, 
shaking hands cordially. " I see that, like 



208 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

me, you have been tempted by the beauty 
of the afternoon to take a constitutional.'* 
, " Yes," replied Bob, " I thought a walk 
would do me good ; but I confess to having 
had an object. I have been calling on 
Lady De Fochsey. Do you know her by 
any chance ? " 

" No, we have never met, except in the 
hunting field, where I have seen her occa- 
sionally, but not often. She is not one of 
our regular residents." 

" Oh ! indeed. And when do you hunt 
again, doctor?" inquired Bob, thinking a 
good opportunity had presented itself to 
attack the subject of Dot's accepting a 
mount. 

" I'm not quite sure. It's very difficult 
for me to form plans beforehand. They 
are so liable to be upset at the last 
moment. But if I can possibly manage it 
I hope to get out on Wednesday," 

"Let me see, where do they meet?" 



THE DIVINITY'S MOTHER. i 

said Bob. " My memory is so bad tliat I 
Lave forgotten." 

"At Pilkington Hill-side, in the very 
best part of the whole country. That's 
wliv I'm anxious to keep the dav clear if I 
can. We generally have a good run from 
there. The Pilkington foxes are nearly 
always a wild, straight-running lot." 

And Doctor Lankester's mild face lit 
up with the enthusiasm of a genuine 
sportsman. 

" Does —does Miss Lankester accompany 
you ? " inquired Bob, a trifle confusedly. 

" I hope so. She has ]}een away from 
home the last few days, staying with a 
friend the other side of the county." 

"Oh!" said Bob, trying to appear in- 
dilTerent. " I thought I had not seen her 
about." 

" That was the reason ; but the child 
comes back on Tuesday, and I should like 
to arrange a treat for her if I could. You 
VOL. II. 30 



210 A CEACK COUNTY. 

don't know what an awfully keen sports- 
woman Dot is, Mr. Jarrett." 

" I can quite imagine it, if slie takes 
after her father," said Bob with a 
smile. 

" Well, I suppose these things are here- 
ditary," admitted Doctor Lankester. " At 
all events, Dot inherits her love of sport 
from me, for her mother does not know a 
horse from a cow. However, the child is a 
true chip of the old block, and it is a 
pleasure to see her out hunting. She 
enjoys herself so thoroughly. The only 
thing is it makes me wish I could afford 
to mount her decently." 

Doctor Lankester had altogether dropped 
his professional manner, and apparently 
enjoyed nothing better than talking about 
his daughter, of whom he was evidently as 
proud as he was fond. 

Now was Bob's chance ; he could not 
possibly have had a better. 



THE DIVINITY'S MOTHER. 211 

" I — I wanted to ask you sometliing," 
he said, blusliiriG^ like a sclioolml. 

" Indeed ! What is it ? If I can be of 
any assistance to you, I shall be only too 
glad." 

"It's a favour," said Bob, turning a 
shade more crimson than before. 

"I'm delighted to hear it, because, in 
that case, the probabilities are the re- 
quest is something I am in a position to 
grant." 

" Thank you, awfully, doctor ; I only 
want you to say yes." 

His companion smiled. Bob's simplicity 
was a refreshing contrast to Captain 
Straightem's hauteur. 

" You forget," he said indulgently, " that 
I still remain in if^norance as to vour 
wishes." 

'' Well, the fact is," Bob blurted out in 
reply, " I have a great many more horses 

in my stables than I can possibly ride " 

30* 



212 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Then you're a very lucky man,'' inter- 
rupted the doctor playfully. 

" Yes, but if you would only allow Do — 
I mean Miss Lankester, to take one when- 
ever she wants to go hunting, it would be 
conferring a downright obligation upon me. 
There, that's what I wanted to say." 

Doctor Lankester crave no immediate 
reply. Coming from an almost total 
stranger he was touched by the kindliness 
of the ofler. In twenty years Captain 
Straighten! had never made a similar one. 

" Well, what do you think of my idea ? " 
asked Bob anxiously. " You won't refuse, 
will you ? " 

'''Upon my word, Mr. Jarrett, I hardly 
know. It is awfully kind of you to 
suggest such a thing, but I scarcely feel 
justified in allowing Dot to profit by your 
generosity." 

" It would be uncommonly nice to irive 
her a real good mount for Wednesday,'' 



THE DIVIXITT'S MOTH KB. 213 

urged Bob persuasively, " especially if slie 
knew nothing at all about it till she f]fot to 
tlie meet." 

Dr. Lankester's countenance showed that 
the proposition was one which recom- 
mended itself. 

He was devotedly attached to his 
daun^hter, and the mere thouofht of i^ivirif]^ 
her pleasure proved a great inducement to 
accept Mr. Jarrett's offer. 

" I think Dot would go off her head with 
delight," he said. " How she would ride if 
she were really well mounted. I should 
like you to see her follow hounds just for 
once, Mr. Jarrett." And his face beamed 
with paternal pride. 

" I hope to see Miss Lankester follow 
hounds not once, but many times," Bob re- 
joined ; " and, as I said before, it will be 
an act of charity to keep my horses in 
work." 

*' There are not many ladies in these 



214 A CEACK COUNTY. 

parts who can beat Dot across a country," 
went on the doctor, feeling that he had 
secured a sympathetic listener, and in his 
innocence never once suspecting Bob might 
have an ulterior motive. '• Although I say 
it — who shouldn't — she can ride. I know 
no prettier sight in this world than to see 
Dot coming over a fence." 

" She's a pretty sight anywhere," said 
Bob, under his breath. Then he added 
aloud, and in tones of perfect satisfaction, 
" Come, that's settled, and we need not 
discuss the matter any more. How do ycu 
go to covert, doctor ? " 

" We generally ride, provided the 
distance is not too c^reat." 

" In that case, if you and Miss Lankester 
will jog out to the meet on AVednesday, 
Kiiigiisher shall be there in readiness, and 
my groom can then change the saddles." 

" A thousand tlianks. That will suit us 
capitally, and I do hope, for Dot's sake, we 



THE DIVINITY'S MOTHEK. 215 

may have a good run, if only to give lier a 
chance of proving herself not wholly un- 
worthy of your kindness." 

" Pray don't talk about kindness," said 
Bob, colouring up to the roots of his hair. 
" The boot is on the other lecf, really." 

" Ah ? that's your nice way of putting 
it." 

" Not at all. I can't tell you, doctor," 
and Bob's face grew suddenly grave, " how 
lonely I am all by myself in that great big 
house. I long for companionship, and if 
you and your family would only treat me 
as a friend, instead of as a stranger, you 
would be conferring a real benefit." 

Doctor Lankester was moved by this 
appeal. He had conceived a great liking 
for the simple and straightforward young 
fellow, and only Bob's superior social posi- 
tion had prevented him from showing it 
more fully. Now his heart was completely 
won. 



216 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" We shall all appreciate having a neigh- 
bour in you/' he said heartily. " And if 
we are to treat you unceremoniously, you 
must treat us the same, and, whenever you 
are dull or out of spirits, consider our house 
your home. And, as a beginning, you had 
better come in now and drink tea with my 
wife, who will thoroughly enjoy a chat. 
For here we are," pulling up before the 
identical porch beneath which Bob had 
stood gazing at Dot's pure profile only a 
few nights previousl3\ 

The young man gladly accepted this in- 
vitation. He had nothino: whatever to do 
until dinner-time ; and, in spite of Dot's 
absence, his curiosity prompted him to take 
the present opportunity of seeing her home 
and surroundings. The}" would surely 
speak to him of her in some form or 
other. 

He also believed that if he could but 
succeed in establishing a friendship between 



THE DIVINITY'S MOTHER. 217 

himself and Doctor and Mrs. Lankester, it 
would materially assist liis cause hereafter. 
There was nothing like having the parents 
on one's side to start with. Their goodwill 
might prove an enormous gain, and greatly 
facilitate all future meetings. 

Mothers were proverbially kind to eligible 
young men who appeared to fancy their 
daughters, and Bob entertained every hope 
of enlisting Mrs. Lankester's sympathies. A 
quiet half-hour's confidential conversation 
would at least afford a chance of making a 
favourable impression, which he should 
take care to increase later on. 

So he followed the doctor into a small 
but cheerful and cleanly-papered passage, 
and shortly afterwards was ushered into the 
presence of Dot's mother. He had looked 
upon her with reverence, as a being to be 
admired and distantly adored, in virtue of 
her quite too charming daughter. And she 
disappointed him. 



218 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Had lie not been so young and so foolish 
he might have known that such would 
surely prove the case. For when does a 
middle-aged woman ever come up to a 
man's expectations ? He can always find a 
flaw in her somewhere, if so disposed. His 
imagination had pictured a gentle, fragile, 
ethereal-looking old lady, with silvery locks, 
and a white Shetland shawl, and a sweet 
musical voice. In reality, he saw a stout, 
rotundly-shaped personage, with black 
beady eyes, rosy cheeks, and several chins, 
who spoke in a sharp staccato voice, and 
who, against his will, impressed him with 
an idea of vulgarity, and of belonging to a 
lower class than did her husband. 

Mrs. Lankester was clad in a black silk 
dress, very shiny at the shoulder-blades. 
Her head was covered by a gorgeous 
erection of lace and bright blue ribbons, 
and round her fat red neck liuniif a lono- o;old 
watch-chain. The first glimpse proclaimed 



THE DIVINITY'S JMOTIIER. 219 

her fondness for meretricious adornment. 
At least, so Bob decided. As for any re- 
semblance to Dot — well, when she began to 
speak, it relieved him to find that there was 
none. They had not a single trait or 
feature in common. All the girl's refine- 
ment and gentility evidently came from her 
father. She owed none of her charms to 
the maternal side. 

Mrs. Lankester received him most 
graciously ; nevertheless, there was some- 
thinsf about her which he did not like, 
though he wculd have been at a loss to 
define what that something was. Her ex- 
aggerated civility produced an irritating 
effect upon his nerves, and seemed too 
great to be real. There was too much 
fussiness in her manner and in her effusive 
speeches. He preferred Doctor Lankester's 
homely method of offering hospitality. But 
that good man remained singularly quiet in 
the presence of his better half, of whom it 



220 A CEACK COUNTV. 

was easy to see he stood in considerable 
awe. He soon left the room, pleading as 
an excuse that he had some business to 
attend to, and the lady was not ill-pleased 
to find herself alone with her guest. The 
doctor always would prose on so about 
medicine and science, and things that 
nobody cared a bit about. She should 
extract far more from ]\[r. Jarrett in his 
absence. 

Meanwhile the tea had been brought up, 
and she pretended to be very busy among 
the cups and saucers. 

" Sugar ? " she inquired presently, with 
an ingratiating smile, holding up a lump 
between the tongs, and thrusting it almost 
under her visitor's nose. 

" If you please, Mrs. Lankester." 

" And cream ? " laying an emphasis 
on the words, which called attention to 
the fact of cream and not milk being 
oflered. 



THE DIVINITY'S MOTHER. 221 

'• If it is not troubling you too much," 
said Bob amiably. 

" Oh ! don't mention the trouble ; it's a 
pleasure." 

Seated vis-a-vis his hostess and furnished 
with a cup of boiling tea, which could only 
be drunk in spasmodic sips, and which was 
far more painful to the palate than comfort- 
ing, Bob now, for the first time, summoned 
up sufficient courage to inquire after Dot. 

" And so your daughter is away from 
home, Mrs. Lankester ? " he said. 

" Yes, she left early on Wednesday 
morning. In fact, the day after she and 
her father dined with you." 

" Don't you miss her most dreadfully ? 
I'm sure I should if I had such a child," 
said Bob, his imagination running riot. 

"Oh! yes, of course," responded Mrs. 
Lankester, in tones which gave the lie 
direct to the assertion. 

" But then, you see, Mr. Jarrett, we poor 



222 A CRACK CO 'J NT Y. 

mothers of families have got to get used to 
losing our offspring." 

" Do you mean that they take husbands 
unto themselves ? " 

" Exactly. You've hit the right nail on 
the head." 

" And is Miss Dot (Tfoing: to ^et married ? " 
he asked with considerable perturbation. 

"Kow, now, how you do jump at con- 
clusions, to be sure ! I never implied such 
a thing ; I merely meant to say that I 
suppose she will some day, when the right 
man turns up." 

" And hasn't he turned up yet ? " 

*' Not in my opinion. Bits of boys with- 
out a halfpenny to bless themselves with 
are no good whatever, and the mistake is 
encouraging them, as I have impressed upon 
Dot since her childhood." 



CHAPTEE XII. 

MATERNAL TROUBLES. 

Bob gave a sigh of relief at this announce- 
ment. He felt as if some deadly weight 
had been removed from his heart. 

" She's sure to marry pretty soon," lie 
said decidedly. 

" She may or she may not," answered 
Mrs. Lankester, looking at him with her 
sharp black eyes. " I don't mind telling you 
that my eldest daughter made a very bad 
match indeed, thanks to her father's weak- 
ness in giving his consent ; and I've no 
intention of allowins^ Dot to do the same, 
that is to say — " drawing herself up con- 
sequentially, " if / have any voice in the 
matter." 

" Quite right," said Bob, highly approv- 



224 A CIIACK COU.NTY. 

ing of this decision, since he saw that it shut 
the doors to numbers of penniless candi- 
dates. 

" You see, Mr. Jarrett," continued Mrs. 
Lankester in her most confidential manner, 
" poor Matilda was simply sacrificed. Sbe 
fell in love with a young engineer who had 
only a hundred and fifty a year, and Doctor 
Lankester, instead of sending him to the 
right about, actually encouraged the 
marriage. With what result ? There js 
poor dear Matilda now, at five-and-twenty, 
living in some frightful, unhealthy African 
village, from which she may never live to 
return, and wdtli three little bits of 
children on her hands. Can you conceive 
of anything more dreadful or more trying 
to my maternal feelings ? " 

" But perhaps she is happy, Mrs. Lan- 
kester. If so she would make liixht of 
enduring a few hardships for the sake of 
being with her husband." 



MATERNAL TROUBLES. 225 

" Oil ! don't talk to me of lier husband. 
Every time I hear his name mentioned it 
makes me mad to think what a fool Doctor 
Lankester was, not to send him off with a 
flea in his ear. But I shall take pretty- 
good care not to let Dot throw herself away 
in a similar manner, however much she 
may be backed up by her father." 

And as she spoke Mrs. Lankester s 
countenance assumed such an obstinate 
expression that Bob immediately caught 
himself pitying her more unworldly and 
tender-hearted spouse, and wondering how 
many Caudle lectures he had already 
been treated to on the subject of Matilda's 
mesalliance. But he kept his speculations 
secret, and said soothingly : 

" I think you have no cause for alarm 

as regards Miss Lankester. She is sure to 

make a good marriage, possibly a brilliant 

one. But perhaps you are too ambitious." 

" Oh ! dear no, Mr. Jarrett. You are 

VOL. n. 31 



226 A CRACK COUNTY. 

([uite mistaken there. I would let her 
jnaiTj anybody who had a sufficient 
income," 

*' And what do you call a sufficient 
income, Mrs. Lankester ? Fifteen thousand 
a year ? " 

That was precisely the amount he had 
inherited from his uncle. 

" Two would satisfy me. But there — " 
breaking off short, " what's the use of 
talking .^ Young men with money and on 
the look out for a wife are scarce in this 
part of the world : and even a few hundreds 
are not to be picked up in a hurry." 

" I thought there were any number of 
hunting bachelors in Stiflshire," said 
J3ob. 

" So there are. But they don't count, 
though lots of them are aggravatingly 
rich." 

"Indeed! Why not?" 

" Because their heads are stufled full of 



MATERNAL TEOUBLES. 227 

nothing but horses and hounds, and they 
think far more of a yearling filly than they 
do of a young lady. I begin to despair of 
Dot's finding a husband down here." And 
Mrs. Lankester sighed audibly. 

" She must have one, of course P " said 
Bob, with a touch of satire lost upon his 
listener, whose extreme worldliness repelled 
him, although he could not help feeling 
amused by it. 

'• Of course. What is a young woman 
to do if she remains single ? She's a 
perfect nobody, and has no position what- 
ever. Besides, Dr. Lankester can't afford 
to leave either of his daughters a fortune, 
He's not at all a rich man, and of late years 
he has been far from strong." 

"Never fear," said Bob confidently. 
*'Miss Dot can do quite well witliout a 
' dot ' — no joke intended." 

" Ah ! that's all very fine, but seriously, 
Mr. Jarrett, what disturbs me so much 

31* 



228 A CEACK COUNTY. 

now-a-days is the tribe of women one 
meets witli wherever one goes. There 
are a great many more in existence than 
there are men, and things have got to such 
a pass in our country, that the fact of the 
matter is there are not enough husbands to 
a-o round. Some of the girls are bound to 
get left out in the cold, whether they like 
it or not." 

" Then I should ship them off to 
Australia," said Bob, laughing heartily. 
" A batch of nice, rosy English young 
ladies would be immensely appreciated out 
in the bush." 

" One can't send a girl off to a foreign 
country all alone," said Mrs. Lankester, 
receiving the suggestion quite serioush\ 

Besides, Dot is so young 3^et, that I think 
she should be allowed to have a chance first, 
though Heaven only knows how she is ever 
to meet anybody worth marrying down 
here." 



(( 



MATERNAL TROUBLES. 229 

Mrs. Lankester's anxiety to get rid of lier 
daughter, and the way in which she 
appealed to him, tickled Bob's fancy not a 
little. A lady of greater refinement would 
have concealed her object better, and 
treated the whole matter more artistically. 
Instinct told him that in his love's mother 
he should find a powerful ally, who would 
advance his cause by every means at her 
disposaL And, though he might not 
much like the woman, this was of vast 
importance. It was an immense relief, too, 
to ascertain that practically the field lay 
open, and that none other had laid siege to 
Dot's affections. 

Consequently, the more piteously Mrs. 
Lankester bewailed tli3 scarcity of eligible 
suitors, the lighter hearted he grew. 
Everything appeared satisfactory, as far 
as he was concerned. 

"You mark my words," he said gaily, 
*' some stranger will come pouncing down 



230 A CPtACK COUNTY. 

on Miss Dot when you least expect it, and 
carry lier ofF before you liave time to 
recover from your surprise." 

'^ I hope so at any rate. But are you 
really in earnest, Mr. Jarrett?" looking at 
him with eyes which seemed to pierce his 
innermost thous^hts. 

" Yes, quite. Your daughter is much 
too charming to remain a spinster, even 
in this country, where there is such a 
sad insufficienc}' of the masculine crea- 
ture." 

"And you are not joking?" she said 
pointedly. " You really mean what you 
say ? 

" Of course I do ; I never was more 
serious in my life." 

" Why, Mr. Jarrett," she exclaimed play- 
full v, " I shall befi^in to think vou are a 
little bit ' gone ' on Dot yourself." And an 
unctuous smile spread slowly over all her 
roseate countenance. 



MATERNi\L TROUBLES. 281 

It was a hazardous speech, but there was 
a look in his face which emboldened her 
to make it, and made her heart beat fast 
with a hope that surpassed even her highest 
ambition. 

He blushed furiously, but did not attempt 
to deny the insinuation. 

Suddenly she leant forward and said with 
almost motherly solicitude : 

" I hope we shall see you very often, 
Mr. Jarrett, although we have no fine 
house, or good cook, or old wines to offer 
as an inducement." 

"I don't care two straws about such 
things," he said hastily. 

" No ? Well, then, I shall no longer 
feel afraid to make you heartily welcome 
whenever you like to come. Even a pot- 
luck dinner we could manage, if you are 
not particular." 

" There never was anyone less so. You 
seem to forget, Mrs. Lankester, that I was 



232 A CHxYCK COUKTY. 

not born in the purple, and have only 
lately inherited my fortune." 

" It's a relief to find you have not in- 
herited Captain Straightem's manners as 
well as his monev,*' said the ladv vindic- 
tively. " I can't abide those stuck-up, 
supercilious people." 

" I hope you don't thir-k me ' stuck- 
up '? " said Bob. 

"Xot a bit. That's why I like you." 

" I am glad j^our first impressions have 
been favourable, Mrs. Lankester." 

" La ! Mr. Jarrett, I feel as if we were 
quite intimate already, and can almost 
imagine I had known 3'ou all my life. I 
should no more have dreamt of telling 3'our 
uncle about Matilda's marriage, and m}' 
hopes for Dot, than of flying. But you are 
what I call a real neighbour, not a make- 
believe." 

" I hope to prove in3'self one," he said. 

" You have done that alreadv ; but if 



MATEENAL TIIOUBLES. 233 

you wish to do so still more, you might 
take compassion on tliat poor girl of mine, 
every now and again when you have no 
better employment. She leads a dull life 
at best, and a little young society would 
do her all the good in the world." 

He understood perfectly what she in- 
tended to convey by this petition. Her 
vulgarity was intense, but fortunately her 
wishes coincided with his own, so that he 
felt no difficulty in complying with the 

reauest. 

±. 

Only he could not help thinking that it 
was very disgusting of a woman to throw 
her daughter at a man's head quite so 
plainly, simply because she knew he was 
well-off. For of his real character Mrs. 
Lankester could know positively nothing. 
She might have been sacrificing her 
ofTspring at the shrine of a monster, for 
aught she was aware. 

Had lib been in Dot's place he should 



234 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

have resented such conduct fiercely, and 
he fancied now that he could divine the 
reason of her coldness and reserve. No 
doubt the mother's many lectures on 
matrimony had revolted her pride, and 
caused her to assume that sternly defensive 
demeanour which in his heart of hearts he 
both admired and respected. 

He told himself that he should not have 
liked her so well if, instead of exhibiting 
the same simple, child-like nature as her 
father, she had taken after Mrs. Lankester. 

That lady ^inspired him with an antipathy 
which he was at a loss wholly to account 
for. Her amiability struck him as unreal, 
her 2[ood humour as forced. 

But he was extremely ungrateful to 
harbour such thoughts, whilst she sat 
there, smilini^ at him across the table and 
confidino' all her maternal troubles, as if 
he had been her bosom friend and on terms 
of the greatest intimacv. 



MATERNAL TROUBLES. 235 

When at length he arose to take his 
leave, he was conscious that she had 
somehow contrived to establish a kind of 
secret understanding, the purport of which 
was much to this effect : 

" You admire my daughter ; you can't 
hide that fact from me, tr}^ what you will. 
Very well Don't be afraid. The c^irl has 
arrived at a marriageable age, and it is 
high time she was settled in a home of her 
own, and off my hands. You can make up 
to her as much as ever you like. I shall 
take care that you have every opportunity 
given you." 

Bob naturally enough was delighted with 
his visit, though not perhaps equally so 
wdth his future mamma-in-law\ He foresaw 
that the probabilities were he should like 
her better before than after matrimony, 
and caught himself wonder in 2f how she 
might be prevented from paying too 
frequent visits at the Court. 



2::6 A CRACK COU^'TY. 

No sooner had he left the room than 
Mrs. Lankester popped her head out of 
the door and called in a sharp excited 
voice : 

" Dr. Lankester. Come here, I want 
you ! " 

" Yes, Emma, what is it ? " he enquired, 
emerging from his laboratory in shirt sleeves 
and slippers. 

" That 3^oung man is in love with Dot. 
You mark my words." 

"What young man?" he enquired 
mildly, having forgotten the very existence 
of his late visitor. 

"What young man ? Why! Mr. Jarrett 
of course, and I tell you he's awfully 
spooney already." 

" Nonsense, Emma. You women are 
always taking ridiculous ideas into your 
heads." 

" Oh ! indeed ! / take ridiculous ideas 
into my head, do I .^ I, who am the only 



MATERNAL TROUBLES. 237 

one who lias a grain of sense in this house. 
Thank you, Doctor Lankester, thank 

you." 

" Pshaw ! " he muttered impatiently, 
threatening to withdraw. " Can't a poor 
young fellow even set foot inside our doors 
without your having designs upon him ? " 
And he commenced a retreat. 

" Don't go. I've something to say to 
3^ou," his better-half exclaimed authorita- 
tively. 

''You generally have, my dear," he 
responded with a sigh of resignation. 

" Yes, but this is something very special 
— something that may aflect your 
daughter's future welfare, and secure her 
fortunes hereafter. 

" Out with it, then. Every woman 
should make a point of checking all 
tendency towards verbosity. The sex have 
a natural inclination to use half-a-dozen 
words where one would do." 



238 A CRACK COUNTY. 

"How rude you are! But about Mr. 
Jarrett " 

" Well, what of him ? Has he been 
doing or saying anything very startling ? " 

" You know what a terrible muddle you 

made in poor Matilda's case " unheeding 

the demand. 

" That's according to one's individual 
way of thinking. Matilda may not be rich, 
but she's very happy, and money is not 
everything in this world." 

" It's a great deal, though. And 
supposing Matilda's husband were to die 
to-morrow, where would she be ? Should 
not you have to keep her and the three 
children ? " looking at him contemp- 
tuously. 

This interroo'ation was so unanswerable 
that Doctor Lankester took refuo^e in 
silence. He generally said as little as 
possible when the partner of his bosom 
be^an an arfrument, knowing from bitter 



MATEENAL TK0Ui3LES. 239 

experience that otherwise it was apt to 
prove interminable. 

"All I want is this," continued Mrs. 
Lankester. "You've had your own way 
with one daughter, and failed signally, let 
me have mine with Dot." 

" I don't understand you. And God 
knows I don't want to have my own way 
in anything that is not for the child's 
good." 

" You are very dense. Leave me to 
manage Mr. Jarrett, and don't attempt to 
interfere." 

" But, Emma " 

" No, let us have no buts. You are not 
called upon to volunteer confessions, even 
if there were any to make. All I ask you 
to do is to hold your tongue." 

" I fear there may be some deception," 
he said, yielding a reluctant consent. 

*' Deception, indeed ! And pray what 
do you take me for. Doctor Lankester? 



240 A CRACK COUNTY. 

That is a pretty word for a man to use to 
his own wife. It's as good as telling her 
that she's a downright liar." 

" Emma, I do wish you would not use 
that word. It's unladylike in the ex- 
treme." 

" Story-teller, then, though it's too 
absurd to be so particular, when you 
have just told me to my face that I am 
capable of playing all sorts of mean 
tricks " 

" I'm sure I never said anything of the 
sort," said the poor doctor apologetically. 

" You insinuated it, John. Yes, and in 
the most unkind and brutal fashion. And 
all because I asked you to maintain a dis- 
creet reserve where your own daughter is 
concerned. It really does not signify to 
me who Dot marries, not a bit ; but don't 
lay the blame at my door if she ends by j 

being a pauper, and has not even so much I 

as a roof over her head after your death." 



MATERNAL TROUBLES. 241 

And SO saying Mrs. Lankester flounced 
out of the room, leaving her husband in a 
state of mild bewilderment as to what the 
discussion*really meant, and for what par- 
ticular reason he was sternly forbidden to 
allude to certain innocent facts in Mr. 
Jarrett's presence. 





VOL II. 



32 



>• .- 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE MOKBEY ANSTEAD MEET IN TIIEIll CHACK 

COUNTRY. 

A LARGE and fasliionable host assembled at 
Pilkincfton Hill-side to o:reet the Morbev 
Anstead hounds in their crack country. 
Every town and village within a radius of 
twenty miles had apparently poured forth 
its contingent. Many arrived by train, but 
more reached the fixture on smart, galloping 
hacks, whose fore-legs seemed warranted ^o 
resist the trying influences of Macadam. 
About quarter of a mile from tlie covert 
was a road where each fresh arrival con- 
gregated, and this road was literally 
crowded with horsemen, grooms, spectators 
and vehicles of every description, from a 
.^mart four-in-hand containing a batch of 



THE MOHBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 243 

officers from the neii?libouriniT town of 
Stiffton, to a diminutive, yellow-painted 
donkey cart, the owners of which were 
standing up on the wheels in order to 
obtain a more elevated point of view. 

Huntsmen and hounds were evidently 
the chief attraction to the natives. Burnett 
was surrounded by a bevy of meanly- clad, 
good-natured foot-people, who watched his 
proceedings, and those of his canine tribe 
with intensest interest, and uttered remarks 
amusing from the very ignorance they 
displayed. Altogether the scene was a 
brilliant one, rendered gay to the eye by 
the numbers of scarlet coats and snowy 
leathers, which offered a pleasing contrast 
to their back-ground of grey-green grass 
and neutral-coloured hedge-rows, that 
stretched far away towards the horizon. 
A few 2[leams of sunshine would have 
rendered it still more imposing, and given 
warmth to the surrounding landscape ; but 

32* 



2U A CRACK COUNTY. 

the day was dull and still, with a quiet 
grey sky, and just a bite of frost in the 
air. 

What wind there was came from the 
east. Thouo'h not stroma it was cold in 
quality, and made the horses round their 
backs and whisk their tails in a manner not 
wholly agreeable to nervous riders. The 
Field were in a particularly cheerful and 
sanguine mood. Even the Mutual Adora- 
tionites were a shade less sad than usual, 
and not quite so chary of speech. By a 
remarkable coincidence, everybody had 
apparently made up his or her mind that 
the day was one destined to prove produc- 
tive of a good run. Even Burnett seemed 
hopeful, and declared there was every 
appearance of its being a scenting morning, 
which statement still further increased the 
expectations of his followers. 

Bob had taken care to arrive early. He 
sported " pink " for the first time, and felt 



THE MOKBEY A^^STEAD MEET. 245 

very fine in his new clothes. Ah'eady he 
wondered at himself for ever having 
descended to elastic straps. Looking back, 
even Charles' ill-concealed derision appeared 
perfectly justifiable. His thoughts, how- 
ever, Avere full of Dot, and he was glad not 
to differ from his neighbours for her sake. 
He would not have liked her to consider 
him a guy. He left home quite a quarter 
of an hour sooner than was necessary, 
because he did not desire to miss the 
pleasure of seeing her face when first she 
became aware of the fact that she was to 
ride Kingfisher instead of Mouse. 

Consequently, he took up his station at 
the junction of four roads a little way 
removed from the crowd, whilst his pulses 
throbbed with feverish expectation. Mean- 
time Kingfisher was safely domiciled in 
some farm buildings close at hand. 

Fortunately for the impatient young 
man he had not to wait lonir. 



246 A CEACK COU.NTY. 

Before many minutes had gone by, he 
recof]rnised a certain sturdy dun cob, 
advancing at a brisk trot, and bearing on 
her back a slender, feminine figure which 
set liis heart a-beating even whilst yet a 
considerable distance off. 

Doctor Lankester accompanied his 
dauc^hter. He was mounted on a short- 
legged, compact, flea-bitten grey mare, with 
a big body, strong quarters, and a lean 
head and neck, which gave her a real 
business-like and " varmint " appearance. 
In fact she looked a hunter all over ; and 
the way she pricked her ears at sight of 
the hounds, champed at her bit, and 
quickened her stride, proclaimed a decided 
preference for chasing the fox rather than 
jogging soberly along the roads from one 
patient to another. Her rider appeared 
transformed. From a quiet, rather melan- 
choly individual, he had changed into a 
vivacious and enthusiastic sportsman, who 



THE MOKr,EY ANSTEAD MEET. 217 

sat his horse like a centaur, and whose 
heart was evidently in the work. 

'^ Hooray ! Here you are ! " exclaimed 
Bob, colouring with pleasure, and raising 
his hat to Dot. "How do you do, Miss 
Lankester ? Has your father been telling 
you as you came along of the terrible plans 
we have hatched in your absence ? " 

The tone of his voice reassured her. 

" No," she said smiling. " What plans ? " 

The fresh air and the sharp exercise had 
tinted her face like a wild rose. 

" I will leave Doctor Lankester to 
explain ; for if you don't approve of our 
conspiracy, you will forgive him more 
readily than me." 

She turned towards her father with a 
look of bewilderment in her clear eyes. 

" Papa," she said. " What does Mr. 
Jarrett mean ? " 

" Well, Dot," he replied, " the fact is, 
our kind friend and neic^hbour has insisted 



248 A CEACK COUJ^TY. 

upon your accepting a mount for the day. 
So jump off old Mouse, my girl, and we 
will set about changing saddles at once." 

A sudden flush of pleasure rushed to her 
cheeks, and dyed them a vivid crimson. 
Bob would not have lost the sic^ht of that 
involuntary expression of delight for a great 
deal. It sent an answering thrill of rapture 
running through his veins, and was all the 
reward he wanted. No words could have 
conveved ]]alf so much. 

And Dot, taken completely by surprise, 
did not give herself time to think. Besides, 
if her father had sanctioned the proceedings, 
it was absurd for her to entertain any 
scruples. Eed letter days were scarce. 
Surely she would be a fool not to profit by 
one when she i>ot the chance. 

Some such thoughts flashed for a moment 
through her brain, and she exclaimed 
cordially : 

" A mount for me ? Oh ! Mr. Jarrett, 



THE MOKBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 249 

how good of you. I feel as if it were 
impossible to thank you enough.'^ 

But Bob had vanished. Without waiting 
to hear what Dot would say he had gone 
off in search of Kingfisher. He reappeared 
however, very shortly, accompanied by a 
groom leading the proud animal destined 
to carry Miss Lankester. 

She jumped lightly to the ground without 
further delay, and stood holdiug Mouse's 
bridle with her small, gloved hands, whilst 
her saddle was being transferred from the 
one horse to the other. 

A little, slender bit of a thing she looked ; 
not exactly short, but very slight and 
girlish, and with a wonderful pair of clear, 
intelligent eyes, through which her whole 
nature seemed to shine. 

So Bob thought as he gazed at her, but 
Dot's attention was fully engrossed by 
Kingfisher. 

The chestnut was a real beauty, and a 



250 A CRACK COUNTY. 

thorougli gentleman in appearance — long, 
low, and symmetrical, with a blood-like 
head, small sensitive ears, and a neck 
strong, yet pliant as a piece of whalebone. 
He stood about fifteen-three, on good sound 
limbs, short from the knee downwards, 
whilst his sloping shoulders denoted speed 
and comfort to the rider, his great, long 
muscular thighs and well let down hocks, 
immense jumping capability. Dot was quite 
sufficiently well versed in horse-flesh to take 
in her hunter's good points. As for Doctor 
Lankester, who like all Yorkshire men was 
a heaven-born judge, he stood and looked 
him over with the eye of a " connoisseur," 
and even then found it hard to detect a 
fault. 

" That's something like a hunter," he 
exclaimed approvingly. " Clean bred, yet 
up to weight, and as nearly perfect in 
shape, as man could wish for. Dot," turn- 
ing to his daughter with a pleased expres- 



THE MOEBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 2:1 

sion, " it will be your fault, my girl, if you 
do not sliow a good many of us the way 
to-day." 

Dot gave a little, silvery laugli, wliicli 
rang out musically on the still air. 

" I'll do my best at any rate, father. But 
it takes a very first-rate performer to 
flourish his heels in Sugarloaf's face." 

" Aye, aye, that's so," said the doctor, 
playing with his mare's fine mouth. " But 
all the same, if I'm not verv much mistaken, 
you'll have the legs of me to-day." 

When all was in readiness, Bob, after 
first apologizing for his inexperience, offered 
to mount the girl, but her father's hands 
were already clasped, and she put her foot 
inside them with the confidence of long use. 
In another second she was firmly seated in 
the saddle, and gently taking up the reins, 
leant forwards and patted Kingfisher's 
glossy neck. 

" Nice old man," she said in cooing 



252 A CEACK COUNTY. 

accents. " You and I must soon make 
friends." 

As she moved ofT towards where the 
hounds were located, her slight figure, with 
its shapely shoulders and small, round waist 
sitting firm and erect, although it yielded 
gracefully to every movement of her horse, 
Bob thought, that in spite of the patched 
habit, and its threadbare seams, which again 
had attracted his notice, he had never seen 
a much prettier sight in his life. She was 
so trim and neat, and her sweet little face 
peeped out from under the brim of her pot 
hat like some bright, fresh, wholesome 
flow^er, that held its head up straight, and 
knew none of the sin and misery that goes 
on in this vale of tears. 
' He gave a few final directions to his 
groom about taking Mouse back to her own 
stables, and was just about to follow Doctor 
Lankester and his daughter, when a voice 
close behind said unccremoniouslv : 



THE MORBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 253 

" Hulloa ! Bob. How are you ? " 

Startled by the familiarity of the greeting, 
he looked round and perceived Lady De 
Fochsey, who in her scarlet coat and white 
waistcoat, reminded him somewhat of a 
monkey on a barrel-organ. 

" Good-morning," he responded politely, 
trying to smother a slight feeling of annoy- 
ance at her presence, and the off-hand 
mode of address, which distinctly inti- 
mated that she looked upon him as her 
own peculiar property. '' Nice day this 
for hunting." 

" Yes, very, though I shouldn't wonder 
if it rained later on. By the way, would 
you mind piloting me? I always like 
knowing I have some one to rely upon, and 
really. Captain Springerton has taken to 
jumping such tremendous places, that I told 
him only the last time he was out, it was 
really impossible for me to follow him any 
longer." 



254 A CRACK COUNTY. 

This request placed Bob in a dilemma. 
He had never bargained for having to take 
charge of her ladyship in the field, and was 
rather alarmed by the proposition. To 
begin with, he had not the very faintest 
notion whether she went well to hounds or 
not ; and moreover, on this particular day, 
he had promised himself the pleasure of 
keeping near Dot Lankester, and of seeing 
how Kingfisher carried his precious burden. 
Instinct told him, that if he acceded to 
his spiritual affinity's demand, it would 
seriously interfere with this programme. 
She was not a lady to brook any rival. 

" Upon my word," he answered diplo- 
matically, " I should be only too glad to 
assist you in any difficulty, but I am not 
an experienced sportsman, and really don't 
pretend to know enough about hunting to 
undertake the delicate task of piloting a 
lady across country." 

" Oh ! never mind that. Bob, vou're too 



THE MORBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 255 

modest by half. Besides, there's no occa- 
sion to go so desperately hard. Indeed I'd 
rather not as far as I am concerned. 
These tremendous big fences only scratch 
your face, and pull all your clothes to 
pieces." 

" It don't much signify about my face 
being scratched," he rejoined ungraciously, 
" though of course a lady's is different. 
Only if hounds run, one is bound to try 
and be with them.'"' 

" Oh ! if one turns up at the checks it 
does just as well. For my part, I prefer 
sticking to the roads — they give you so 
much better opportunities." 

He made a wry face, but had not courage 
enough to ask, to what sort of oppor- 
tunities she referred, thouc^h in his own 
mind he summed them up by a single 
word — flirtation. 

"I give you fair warning," he said, 
striving to conceal his impatience at being 



25G A CRACK COUNTY. 

separated from Dot, " that I am not a fit 
person to pilot a lady." 

"But, Bob — I want to talk to you. I 
must talk to you, in fact." 

" What about, Lady De Fochsey ? Can't 
you say what you've got to say now ? " 

" Impossible ! How can you ask such a 
question, especially after all that happened 
the other day ? Is there no more magnetic 
sympathy between us? Has it entirely 
evaporated ? " 

" I'm sure I don't know," he responded 
sheepishly. " I never exactly understood 
what magnetic sympathy meant." 

"You seemed to have a pretty good 
inkling of it last Sunday afternoon at any 
rate, but it appears to me that you have 
retrogressed since then." 

"Yes, I am afraid I have. I am not 
conscious of much improvement." 

" Have you made no progress whatever, 
Bob ? " 



THE MORBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 257 

"It seems not. At least according to 
your way of thinking." 

" Alas ! Neither have I, and it proves to 
me conclusively, that the latent possibili- 
ties within us cannot be developed singly, 
but require mutual assistance. We must 
repeat our experiments, and lose no time 
in doing so, else what powers we already 
possess will fade aw^ay, owing to the 
weakenino: of the electric current. Tell 
me, Bob," sidling up close to him, " when 
may I expect you ! I shall take care this 
time, that our seance is not interrupted, just 
when we are obtaining important results." 

He felt more and more embarrassed. 
Her eagerness was difficult to deal wdth. 

" Eeally," he said, in shuffling tones that 
were most unusual to him, and wishing to 
goodness he had the moral courage to put 
an end to this tomfoolery once and for all, 
"it's almost impossible to Qx any exact 
time." 

VOL. IT. 33 



258 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Are you so very, very busy ? " she 
asked sarcastically. 

He reddened. The tone of her voice 
brought home an uncomfortable sense of 
evasion. 

"Well, yes, I am. The fact is, Lady 
De Fochsey," setting his jaw as if he were 
going at some impenetrable bull-fmch, " I 
can't cultivate my ' latent possibilities ' 
until my terrestrial affairs have been placed 
in some order." 

" But why not combine the two ? 
The development of your psychic force 
would enable you to attend to mere 
mundane businesf* with far greater 
ability." 

" I fear that it cannot be done. I am 
not so sanguine as you." 

She turned a pair of reproachful blue 
eyes full upon him. 

" Oh, Bob," dropping her voice almost 
to a whisper, " you are dreadfully unkind. 



THE MOKBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 259 

I could not liave believed that you would 
have treated me like this." 

" Like what ? " The rose, whose frag- 
rance he had not been strong enough to 
withstand, was beginning to show thorns. 

" You seem to ignore my sufferings 
altogether." 

"We will hope that they are not very 
terrible," he said, tr34ng to banter her out 
of her sentimental mood. 

" But they are ; and oh ! Bob, we should 
not have needed many more seances. Half- 
a-dozen or so would soon have rendered us 
independent of hand-joining. It is only 
the preliminary stages that are perhaps a 
little tedious, and when people are born 
mediums like yourself, they have certain 
obligations towards their fellow-creatures 
which it is downrif]^ht wicked to ic^nore." 

And she looked at him tearfullv, for she 
had not foreseen this refractory spirit. 

The distressed expression of her coun- 



2G0 A CRACK COUKTY. 

tenance produced the intended effect. Bob 
relented somewhat. 

" Well, well," he said temporizingly, 
" there's time enoui^h yet. We will wait 
till a frost comes, and then see w^hat can be 
done in the way of spiritual and magnetic 
improvement." 

She was going to make some reply, but 
at this precise moment, Lord Littelbrane, 
not seeing Bob, rode up to her side, and the 
young man profited by the opportunit}^ to 
effect an immediate escape. He at once 
cantered off' in pursuit of the Lankesters, 
who had joined the hounds. 

Two minutes afterwards his lordship gave 
the signal for the proceedings of the day to 
commence, and, accompanied by a whole 
crowd of foot-people, Burnett moved off* at 
the head of a huge procession, and trotted 
briskly across half-a-dozen grass fields 
which separated the covert from the road. 

Kinijfislier had not been out Imntincf 



THE MOEBEY ANSTEAD MEET. 2G1 

since his late accident, and consequently 
was very fresh. When the good horse saw 
his old friends, the little beautiful, white 
and tan ladies in front of him, and felt the 
soft, elastic turf under his hoofs, he 
whinnied with delight, and in the exuber- 
ance of his spirits, bounded high into the 
air. 

" You are not frightened, are you ? " 
said Bob, a little anxiously to Dot 
Lankester. 

Her whole face was aglow with plea- 
sure. 

"Frightened? Oh! dear no. I like it. 
You've no idea, Mr. Jarrett, what an 
exhilarating sensation it is to feel a good 
hunter under one when you've only been 
accustomed to inferior animals. I don't 
think I ever was on such a horse," caress- 
ing Kingfisher's silky mane, an action 
which provoked another playful buck, and 
a little ringing laugh from Dot. 



262 A CEACK COUNTY. 

" I never thought he'd play the fool like 
this," said Bob resentfully. 

" He's only light-hearted, Mr. Jarrett, 
and so am I," she called out gaily in reply. 

Seeing her so cool and undisturbed both 
in seat and in nerve, Bob began to feel 
reassured, especially as Doctor Lankester 
made as lic^ht of Kinf][fisher's va<:^aries as 
did his daughter, and evidently entertained 
no fears on her behalf. 

So Bob concluded that his alarm was 
groundless. Nevertheless he stuck to Dot's 
side until the covert was reached and a 
general halt proclaimed. Having mounted 
the girl he persuaded himself easily enough 
into the belief that it was more or less his 
duty to look after her. 



END OF VOL. II. 



KELLY AND CO., PRINTERS, GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, 
AND MIDDLE MILL, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES. 



UNIVERStTY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA 



3 0112 084215232 




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